Epstein says Cubs won't rush Darvish, Bryant near return

CHICAGO — Theo Epstein says Yu Darvish is feeling better and he is optimistic the Japanese right-hander will make a "solid contribution" this season.

But the Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations stopped short of providing a schedule for the injured starter's return.

Darvish signed a $126 million, six-year deal with the Cubs in February. He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts and didn't earn his first win until May 20 in Cincinnati. He went on the disabled list on May 26 with tendinitis in his right triceps.

Darvish suffered pain during a June 28 bullpen session in Los Angeles, which prevented him from throwing naturally. The 31-year-old traveled to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area the following day to get an opinion from Dr. Keith Meister, an orthopedic surgeon who is one of the Texas Rangers' team physicians.

Darvish got a new diagnosis — right elbow impingement and inflammation — as well as a cortisone shot. The Cubs said it would take several days for the injection to "settle in."

"I think it's been a good couple of days for him, but he's still in that strengthening mode," Epstein said Friday before the Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds. "We're not going to set any timetables yet until he moves from the strengthening phase to the throwing phase.

"A lot of it depends on how he continues to feel and how the throwing goes," Epstein added. "We won't rush him."

Meanwhile, slugger Kris Bryant, out since with June 22 with left shoulder imflammation, batted on Friday and "had a really good day in the cage," Epstein said.

Bryant was eligible to return from the disabled list on Tuesday. The 2016 National League MVP could return to the Cubs any day or go on a brief rehab assignment.

Bryant is batting .280 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 66 games this season.

"We're going to get together to see whether he wants or needs a rehab assignment just to test it in a game situation before he comes back," Epstein said.

Bryant had been experiencing pain on his swing follow-through.

"The shoulder is an important joint to the swing, especially with the swing and finish he has," Epstein said. "I don't know we expected it to be this long . he needs to execute his swing and feel good."

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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