Even though it meant a premature end to his first season in Chicago, Yu Darvish said Thursday that he was relieved when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his right elbow.
"At first, I was told it was a simple tightness, but I always knew there was something else other than the tightness," Darvish said through a translator before the Cubs played the Reds at Wrigley Field.
"With the diagnosis, I'm relieved to know what that something is."
Darvish has been sidelined since late May with what was at first diagnosed as triceps and elbow injuries. The Cubs were hoping to get the veteran right-hander back for the final month of the season, but Darvish left a rehab start Sunday with Single-A South Bend after one inning and 18 pitches, complaining of elbow pain. He had an MRI the next day.
"I know what it's like, tightness in the triceps area," he said. "In the four to five weeks of the rehab process, the pain remained."
The 32-year-old Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs as a free agent last offseason. The big contract and his performance this season before the injury — 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts — didn't earn him the benefit of the doubt with fans. Neither did his struggles in the World Series last season while pitching for the Dodgers (0-2 with a 21.60 ERA in two starts).
Writing in an emotional blog post earlier in the week, the Japanese player acknowledged that the criticism affected him.
"Every morning when I woke up, I would pray, 'I have to throw today, please let there be no pain.' Those were very gloomy days," Darvish wrote. "Meanwhile, the atmosphere around me had become, 'Is he faking an injury?' 'Is it a mental problem?' Those words made it extremely difficult for me to stop and rest, and it really took a toll on me emotionally."
Darvish said Thursday that the failure of doctors to initially discover a significant injury caused him to doubt himself.
"Until the diagnosis, there were times when I thought it could be my mental side," he said.
Darvish said he was told that six weeks of rest should clear up the problem — no surgery is planned — and he is expected to be healthy for the start of spring training.
He was asked if he's looking forward to next season.
"It's really hard to think about next year at this point," he said. "Right now, all I can do is do what's best for my arm."