Former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish throws to the Houston Astros in the first inning of game seven of the 2017 MLB World Series on November 1 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo by Lori Shepler/UPI | License Photo
Yu Darvish, a 31-year-old native of Japan with a 56-42 major league record, will make his Chicago Cubs debut on Saturday night at Marlins Park.
Darvish will face a Miami Marlins lineup that is already plagued by injuries, just three games into the 2018 season. Three would-be starters are out: right fielder Garrett Cooper, catcher J.T. Realmuto, third baseman Martin Prado and shortstop JT Riddle. Cooper suffered a contusion on Friday when he was hit by a pitch on his right wrist.
Cameron Maybin replaced Cooper in right field. Maybin offers more speed and defense than Cooper, but it's difficult to say who will be the better hitter. Cooper is a rookie, after all.
As for Darvish, he struck out 20 batters in 19 1/3 innings this spring. He allowed 14 hits, five walks and six earned runs while lighting up radar guns at up to 98 mph.
"I'm maybe a little surprised at the velocity," Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey told mlb.com. "He's showing me what I've seen and what I've heard about him for a number of years."
Darvish has a 3.42 ERA in five big-league seasons. He arrived from Japan in 2012 with a great deal of hype and lived up to expectations by going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA with the Texas Rangers. He followed that up by going 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and 10-7, with a 3.06 ERA.
But he missed the entire 2015 season due to elbow surgery and bounced around to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the Cubs -- obviously convinced he can last long term -- signed him to a six-year, $126 million deal in February.
"He's been great (this spring)," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told mlb.com. "I've not been worried in any way about his performance. ... He looks the same to me -- the good carry on the low fastball and the sliders that batters come back and say, 'Man, that's unhittable.'"
The Marlins are expected to counter with fellow right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, who struck out 20 in 24 spring innings.
However, the Marlins had to use Despaigne for one inning in Friday's wild 2-1, 17-inning win over the Cubs.
The teams have split the first two of a season-opening, four-game series after Miguel Rojas hit the game-winning single off Brandon Morrow
Immediately following Friday's marathon game, there was no announcement on whether Despaigne would come out for Saturday night's game or if Sunday starter Dillon Peters would be moved up one day.
Despaigne, a Cuban native who turns 31 on Wednesday, is on his third major league club. His career record is 11-21 with a 4.72 ERA.
Last season, he was 2-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 18 appearances, including eight starts. He may not have made the Marlins rotation had it not been for injuries to starters Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen, both of whom are reportedly on the mend.
"He feels great," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said when asked about Straily. "I think it's fair to get him built up, throw a couple of bullpens, throw a rehab assignment, and then he should be ready to go."
Meanwhile, Despaigne has faced the Cubs just once in his career, going 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Darvish has faced the Marlins twice, going 1-1 with a 7.11 ERA.