MLB

Emotional Darvish caught off guard by Cubs trade

    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

As he was introduced by his new team Thursday, Yu Darvish said he was shocked by his trade to the San Diego Padres and grew emotional talking about his time with the Chicago Cubs and the bonds he created there.

“With what’s happening with the coronavirus, and the money the Cubs have, I wasn’t thinking about being traded,” Darvish said Thursday through an interpreter. “And also, they are a winning team and I thought we would be able to compete.”

Darvish, however, is excited about joining a “strong” Padres team which should challenge for the National League pennant.

“I’ve been having my kids watch highlights of the Padres lineup on YouTube,” Darvish said. “They’re a strong team and I’m really excited to watch batting practice.”

Darvish said he’s pitched better over the past 18 months than at any time in his career. He finished second in Cy Young voting this past season after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA, and he credited his improvement to a decision to work slow and “be himself.”

“The Cubs were telling me to prepare however I wanted to prepare,” Darvish said. “The Cubs let me be myself. That helped me back to form.”

He was traded along with Victor Caratini, his personal catcher, to San Diego for starter Zach Davies and four prospects earlier this week. The move came one day after the Padres acquired lefty Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Darvish’s mom once told him that she thought he would play for the Padres, but he didn’t think that would materialize after signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.

With Chicago in cost-cutting mode, however, that premonition came true. Darvish hopes to find the same chemistry with his teammates in San Diego as he did in Chicago.

“A lot of (Cubs) people reached out to me and everyone was pretty shocked and felt bad,” Darvish said. “So this reality is great. I’m excited to play for the Padres.”

The 34-year-old Darvish said he found out about the trade on Twitter, though his representatives knew there was a possibility he could be moved that day.

“My first year with the Padres, going into spring training, I really want to be open and meet everybody,” said Darvish, who already has a relationship with Padres general manager AJ Preller from their days with the Texas Rangers.

Darvish was asked what his trade might mean for Japanese baseball fans who reside in San Diego.

“With coronavirus and everyone being a little down with what’s going on in the world, I just hope to build excitement and help build happiness to the Japanese people around me,” Darvish said.

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