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Yu Darvish puts World Series woes behind him as he starts Cubs tenure with clean slate

Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish walks off the

Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish walks off the field after drills at the team's spring training facility on Feb. 16, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. Credit: AP / Carlos Osorio

MESA, Ariz. — It’s the difference in opinions, we’re told, that makes horse racing. It also makes for huge salaries in baseball free agency.

In his last game with the Dodgers, the seventh game of the 2017 World Series, Yu Darvish couldn’t make it out of the second inning. The Dodgers lost the game and the Series to the Astros. And although Darvish, acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Rangers at the end of last July, was partly responsible for getting them to the last round, he also took part of the blame for the Dodgers’ failure to earn a championship ring. They haven’t won the World Series since 1988, which had been the last time they made it that far.

In the Los Angeles Times, columnist Bill Plaschke wrote, “There’s no way the Dodgers should even consider bringing Yu Darvish back after his World Series meltdown.” They didn’t. A free agent, Darvish remained unsigned until Feb. 10, four days before camp opened here, when the Cubs gave him a six-year, $126-million contract.

The baseball cliché is you can’t have too much pitching, and the Cubs didn’t believe they had enough. So they signed free agents Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Drew Smyly and Steve Cishek, and finally Darvish.

The projected rotation is Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Darvish, Jose Quintana and Chatwood. Is it good enough to get the Cubs back to the World Series, which they won in 2016 for the first time in 108 years? That could be the $126-million question.

Because of stomach problems, Darvish has been unable to pitch in the Cactus League — he’s scheduled to start Tuesday against the Dodgers, and could that be any more perfect? — but was impressive in a bullpen session.

“Insane,” Willson Contreras said after catching him.

Maybe somewhat of an exaggeration, but it’s spring training.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more reserved. “I know it’s early,” he said. “I’m certain his adrenaline was flowing a bit right there, but he threw the ball with great conviction. But as a purist, I looked at the delivery. The ball was reacting at home plate, and it was outstanding.”

Maddon goes about his business with a light-hearted approach he believes helps his players. His philosophy is that there’s too much pressure every day in sports, so try to approach baseball as the kids’ game it was meant to be, with some praise, some laughs and a lot of appreciation.

The Cubs have been known to open practice sessions with Bruce Springsteen blaring on the public address system — dated, but remember, Maddon is 64 — and with live bear cubs from the zoo on the diamonds. Harmless but interesting.

“I don’t want my players to worry about making mistakes,” Maddon said.

The Cubs’ organization doesn’t believe it made a mistake in signing Darvish. Yes, he had a bad World Series — he was almost in tears after Game 7 — but he has had a fine career. And the Cubs hope it continues in Chicago.

VANISHING ACT

How the Cubs’ rotatation has changed since their 2016 World Series championship:

2016

Jon Lester 19-5, 2.44

Jake Arrieta 18-8, .310

Kyle Hendricks 16-8, 2.13

Jason Hammel 15-10, 3.83

Jon Lackey 11-8, 3.35

2018 (Projected)

Lester 12-8, 3.57

Yu Darvish 12-8, 3.52

Hendricks 13-8, 3.66

Jose Quintana 14-8, 3.36

Tyler Chatwood 8-9, 4.20

New York Sports