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CHICAGO – Just a little under a year ago, he was brought in as a major piece to the rotation, with the hope that he would start a new era of his career strong.

The exact opposite happened.

Yu Darvish struggled in the first two months of the season, had a disabled list stint due to the flu,  then was scratched from a Sunday night start against the Giants with right triceps tendonitis in late May. Then came a few months of rehab, two starts in Class A South Bend, and eventually he was shut down with a stress reaction in his right elbow.

In early September, he had arthroscopic surgery on the elbow to clean out debris before starting more rehabilitation. Darvish finished 2018 with a 1-3 record with a 4.95 ERA, making for a tough start to a six-year, $126 million dollar contract.

Yet over the past few months, Darvish has continued his work to return strong for the Cubs in 2019. It’s come in the form of social media posts as the regular season gets closer.

The latest came out this week when the starter posted video of himself throwing off a mound indoors at TMI Sports Medicine in Arlington, Texas.

View this post on Instagram

No spikes light bullpen!

A post shared by Yu Darvish (@darvishsefat11) on

All of these seem to be good signs that Darvish will be ready to go by spring training, which was the hope after the pitcher had his elbow surgery in September.

Cubs president Theo Epstein was as optimistic when discussing the pitcher’s prospects for the 2019 season at the team’s annual convention last Friday.

“The reports are terrific,” said Epstein of Darvish. “He’s added a lot of good muscle, he’s added a lot of flexibility. Most importantly his arm feels terrific, he’s experiencing no discomfort whatsoever when throwing and when testing his arm.”

“He’s walking around with a little bit of confidence. I think that reflects how he’s feeling about himself physically and now the important part starts; just taking that into spring training and then into the season, and being ready for the battle and getting some really good hitters out and being someone that we can lean on in our rotation.”

At least for now, it appears the progress towards making that happen is going well.