The Cubs were hopeful they’d be getting right-hander Yu Darvish back in the near future, but his return to the active roster will now be further delayed, it seems. Manager Joe Maddon told reporters (Twitter link via the Sun Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer) that Darvish’s latest bullpen session “did not go well,” adding that the righty will be reevaluated after he “felt pain on extension.” ESPN’s Jesse Rogers adds that the pain Darvish felt was beyond the normal soreness that might be expected when working back from an injury.
It’s been a month since the Cubs placed Darvish on the disabled list due to discomfort in his right biceps, and it doesn’t seem like the organization is sure exactly when he’ll be cleared to return to the rotation. Darvish will clearly need to ramp up on some form of rehab assignment before returning, and speculatively speaking, today’s setback makes it seem unlikely that he’ll be able to do so before the All-Star break.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery has stepped up nicely in Darvish’s place, working to a pristine 2.02 ERA in 35 1/3 innings across six starts since joining the rotation. While he’s not likely to continue at that pace, of course — fielding-independent metrics peg him in the upper-3.00s or low-4.00s in that time due largely to a .208 BABIP and an unsustainable 83.7 percent strand rate — Montgomery has certainly done enough to make the Cubs think hard about giving him a longer look in the rotation.
General manager Jed Hoyer spoke on that very subject earlier today on 670 The Score in Chicago, stating that Montgomery has “earned” an opportunity in the rotation with his high level of performance. Just how the Cubs will navigate that arrangement remains to be seen. Tyler Chatwood’s control has been an issue all season, and righty Kyle Hendricks has struggled badly in the month of June, posting a 7.03 ERA over five starts. If both Chatwood and Hendricks turn things around, and Darvish ultimately returns to good health, it’s plausible that Chicago could utilize six starters through the season’s second half. If not, perhaps Montgomery will get a longer-term look over one of the struggling arms currently in the rotation.
Of course, a hypothetical scenario in which the Cubs have six healthy and effective rotation options is a long ways from reality at this point, and the coming days will serve to inform as to just how plausible that scenario is. Said Maddon of the Darvish setback (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney): “Over the next couple days, we’ll try to figure out the next course of action. He’s so important to us and our success. We just got to try to figure it out for him and for us. He knows he’s got our support.”