Cubs Optimistic Darvish Can Return by Trade Deadline

We haven’t heard much about Yu Darvish since learning that he had received a cortisone injection in his pitching elbow at the end of June. Rather than use this time to express my reservations when it comes to the use of corticosteroids to counter the body’s natural — and necessary — inflammatory response, I’ll defer to the expertise of Dr. Keith Meister and the Cubs’ medical staff.

The initial report was that they’d wait 3-5 days for the shot to work its magic, then get Darvish on a throwing plan again. Sticking with that timeline would have the pitcher resuming his pitching activities right about nowish, though it doesn’t sound as though he’s reached that point yet.

Despite the setback, Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey was bullish on Darvish’s prognosis when he joined 670 The Score’s Mully and Hanley Show (podcast below) Thursday morning. If all goes well, Hickey said, they expect to get the righty back within four weeks or so.

“It’ll be right at the [July 31] trade deadline that I think we’ll see him,” Hickey said. “So it’s optimistic to say that. It’s realistic to say one month from now, but optimistic to say before the trade deadline.”

Should we tell Hickey that the difference in “one month from now” and “before the trade deadline” represents only five days or one turn in the rotation? Or maybe the Cubs are so confident in what they’ve seen so far that the gap between optimism and realism can be confined to a window of less than a week. That’d be nice.

But a lot can happen between now and the end of the month, as we saw from Darvish’s initial rehab journey. Everything had been progressing as swimmingly as a Javy Baez slide until Darvish again felt triceps pain during a bullpen session in LA after rejoining the Cubs there.

As Hickey laid out on the radio, Darvish is essentially going to have to redo the same process he’d almost completed prior to the pain and subsequent injection.

“It is status quo, but he does feel good,” Hickey explained. “He feels fine. As soon as he begins to start throwing the baseball again, we’re going to have to go through a little bit of a progression of building up the arm strength and then go through the same thing we did before with a bullpen, a simulated game, probably going out on a rehab assignment.”

It’s one thing to feel good when you’re performing activities of daily living and another thing entirely to be fine when throwing a baseball 95 mph, so there’s more than a fair bit of wait-and-see on this front. Still, I’ll file Darvish’s return in my Cautious Optimism folder.

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