It's finally here! That's right, Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training in Mesa. It was one Chicago pitcher that was the center of attention on Tuesday. Yu Darvish was officially introduced as a Cub this afternoon.
Watch the full conference here:
The tall right-hander said via translator that he was very impressed with the sincere interest the Cubs showed in him from the start. Theo Epstein confirmed that Darvish was their number one off-season priority. He added that Yu was perhaps the best strike out pitcher in the major leagues.
Among the other insights in the presser: The Cubs felt they didn't have the best chance to get Darvish at first but the odds increased as the off-season developed. Asked if the signing of Chris Gimenez was a factor in his coming to Chicago, Darvish quipped he likes Willson Contreras better. Finally, he said he is looking to improve his overall game and isn't dwelling on his World Series struggles.
After Darvish departed, manager Joe Maddon and general manager Jed Hoyer joined Epstein on stage for the introductory spring press conference. Hoyer said obviously this was not a typical off-season and hoped it wasn't the trend going forward. He also added the Cubs top priority was pitching and they made almost no moves to boost the position player side of the roster.
Maddon wore a shirt with the slogan "Process Is Fearless" written in Japanese. He praised Darvish and added he would "verbally fight" anyone who thought the 2017 Cubs season wasn't a success. Joe wouldn't reveal a theme for the 2018 season other than to add it would change week to week and he was pretty excited about it.
Though hardly a surprise Epstein confirmed Jake Arrieta will indeed be moving on from the Cubs. Adding: "We wouldn't be wearing these World Series rings if it wasn't for Jake." As for the rotation, while not saying he will use a six-man rotation Theo made it clear they think of Mike Montgomery as a sixth starter that will have to start at some point during the season. Maddon mentioned Monty resembled a thin and trim Rob Gronkowski.
Kyle Schwarber was a topic of conversation throughout the press avail. Darvish said he was the most excited to see War Bear workout after the massive homer he hit off him last NLCS (see below). Maddon also added Kyle is in great shape and should move better in the outfield.
One thing is for sure, it's really nice to have baseball back.