You could not have drawn up a worse 2018 season for Yu Darvish, who signed a huge free agent deal with the Cubs and was then limited to only eight starts, finally getting shut down in September with season-ending surgery after a couple failed rehab attempts. All the while he received criticism from not only the media, but some Cubs fans as well.

His comeback to the Cubs starting rotation is off to a great start in 2019, taking another step in the right direction a few days before the team has its first official workout with pitchers and catchers. Darvish threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and he’s feeling stronger, healthy and more confident.

Via the Chicago Tribune.

“I feel pretty good,” he said Darvish. “My fastball was feeling powerful. The breaking ball is good too.”

“We’re checking spin rate and (velocity), and then (comparing) last year in spring training (to) this year,” Darvish said. “Last year was 88 (mph) in bullpen — this year 91-92 mph. So my (velocity) was going up, and we were talking about that.”

“My body feels way (better) than last year, and my stuff was good too,” Darvish said. “I have confidence.”

Darvish began throwing again in January after having surgery on his right elbow to clean up debris. He was only able to make eight starts in his first year with the Cubs, but he’s on a mission to prove something.

“I couldn’t do anything last year for the Cubs,” said Darvish, who conducted the interview in English. “I really love the fans and this organization. But I couldn’t do anything. I want to do something for Chicago and the Cubs.”

Darvish may end up being the most vital pitcher in the Cubs rotation in 2019. If he can remain healthy then the Cubs have a dominant ace in addition to Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Cole Hamels.

The next six weeks are going to be huge for Darvish down in Arizona. So far, it’s off to a good start.