If Major League Baseball is able to thread the needle of a 60-game season during a pandemic, the Cubs will have ace starter, Yu Darvish, on the mound, at least for now.
Darvish was the first player during spring training months ago to express concern over the coronavirus, long before the first known death from COVID-19 in the U.S. and before MLB shut down the sport in mid-March - and looked like a possible candidate to opt out of an abbreviated season as the pandemic continues to rage across most of the country.
But after news broke Monday that Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake has chosen to opt out of playing this year, a source close to Darvish said the four-time All-Star intends to report for the Cubs summertime spring training at Wrigley Field later this week.
Since then, at least two more players - Nationals pitcher Joe Ross and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman - have opted out.
Players assigned to a "high-risk" category based on underlying risk factors for severe reaction to the virus may opt out and still receive service time and prorated salary for the season. Other players are allowed to opt out but will give up service time and salary.
None of these players are known to be in the high-risk category.
Under the rules outlined in the operating manual MLB and the players union approved for 2020, players reserve the right throughout the training period and season to change their minds on whether to opt out (or back in).
Darvish, a native of Japan who made a brief trip back home over the winter, expressed concern to Cubs officials as spring training opened over possible exposure from the handful of baseball media traveling from Asia, where the virus was more prevalent at the time.
"I'm really worried about it," he said in early March.
Cubs' Yu Darvish plans to play as others in MLB opt out over COVID-19 concerns originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago