The San Diego Padres have one of the strongest clubhouses in the league. Before the team went out and added Keone Kela, I wrote that he made sense for the Friars because this group of guys couldn’t just handle his personality, but could allow him to thrive.
Yu Darvish, who, in recent years, has emerged as a personality himself, especially on Twitter, has found a home in San Diego for the same reason. For those of you who didn’t follow him prior to his arrival this winter, he experienced some pretty brutal stretches early on in his Cubs career.
The expectations surrounding the right-hander in Chicago were sky-high. And to call 2018, his first year with the Cubs, tough is a major understatement. He made just eight starts and struggled to a 4.95 FIP before losing the rest of the season to injury. To say that didn’t sit well with fans is putting it mildly.
“I think he thinks that Chicago hates him for going on the DL a couple of times,” Chicago catcher Chris Gimenez told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve tried to portray to him, ‘Listen, they’re going to love you when we get to October and we’re doing the things that we all want to do here, you’re the main reason we’re doing it and we’re riding you all the way through it.”
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Darvish took the criticism very personally and his struggles carried pretty deep into the 2019 season, as well. He finally got comfortable around the All-Star Break and, since then, he’s been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. But the fact that he came to San Diego and hasn’t missed a beat speaks volumes about this ball club and the fan base.
Padres: Yu Darvish is looking like a Cy Young contender again in 2021
Last year, Darvish finished runner-up in the NL Cy Young race, losing out to then-Reds and now-Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer. Despite his putting the Cubs’ staff on his back, the team turned around and traded him to the Padres for a package of young, far-off prospects – all but signaling another rebuild is at hand.
So the big hurler came to his fourth team since 2017 this spring, looking to prove that, even in his mid-30s, he’s still a big game pitcher. And, boy, has he ever done just that. He’s made seven starts for San Diego this season and has a sub-1.000 WHIP and a 2.27 ERA, anchoring the staff alongside Joe Musgrove.
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Unlike when he joined the Cubs, the start to his Padres career is off to a scorching start. I can’t wait to see him on the bump late in the season or when the Friars are taking on the Dodgers come October because he’s ready to prove he’s the missing piece in the team’s World Series pursuit.