Shaky Darvish still seeking answers to woes
He and pitching game planner, Mike Borzello, were huddled at a table inside the Cubs clubhouse Sunday morning for a lengthy chat and examination of Saturday’s short outing against the Colorado Rockies.
Darvish lasted 4 2/3 innings, failing to complete five innings for the third time in four starts this year. His pitching coach, Jim Hickey, sees the same pattern everyone else is seeing: Darvish loses his command quickly and allows the game to get away from him. This time, a five pitch walk to the pitcher lit a flame to the Rockies rally.
“That’s the big question. What happens after that?” Hickey said referring to the walk of pitcher Tyler Anderson. “It’s happened a couple of times, so far, which is a concern. I’m not going to press the panic button yet but it’s certainly something that needs to be looked into and addressed.”
In his last outing before Saturday, a balk led to another Darvish meltdown. Against the Rockies, four straight hits followed the walk ending his night early once again.
“I don’t really have a theory,” Hickey continued. “If it happened on numerous occasions I might have a theory. It’s happened a couple of times. Is it a coincidence or not? I don’t know. But if it continues to happen I might have more of a theory on it.” For his part, Darvish also isn’t sure why things go south on him so quickly. He had not surrendered a hit until two outs in the fourth inning on Saturday but was out of the game one inning later.
“That’s something I have to overcome,” Darvish said. “It’s definitely my problem. Something I have to work on…It’s the fifth inning I get out of rhythm. I think that can be solved by using more off speed pitches.”
After the game, catcher Willson Contreras questioned whether Darvish let up with two outs in that fifth inning.
“To me it looks like he got too comfortable when he (gets) the second out,” Contreras said. “In the big leagues, no matter how many outs there are, you have to keep attacking the hitters.
Contreras told as much to Darvish during the game, but the righty waved it off.
“I don’t think so,” Darvish said. “I treat every pitch, every batter, the same, regardless of how many outs I have.”
Hickey thinks Darvish simply let up because he was facing the pitcher.
“Take a little off and try to throw a strike, which can be counterproductive, of course,” he said.
In a weird twist, the pitching coach also said his pitcher’s wide arsenal is part of the issue. Darvish famously can throw up to 6 or 7 different pitches but relies heavily on his fastball and slider.
“It would be a lot simpler if a guy was a fastball/slider pitcher,” Hickey said. “End of story. It can become a problem in terms of what’s the optimal mix…Anytime six consecutive hitters reach base it’s a combination of pitch selection and location but I would think more so, just the location.”
Whatever the issues, Darvish will have plenty of time to right the ship after signing a 6-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs late in the winter. His 6.86 ERA speaks volumes about his performance so far and as maddening as anything is the fact that he can look so good then lose it so quickly. His manager isn’t going to make any drastic changes — like calling up his former catcher Chris Gimenez from the minors to catch him — but expects better moving forward.
“I really believe he’s going to have a great season,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s really good. We have to get him on a normal schedule. He knows what he needs to do to get better and more consistent. I have some ideas I’ll relay to him.”