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From Darvish to Zobrist, long term health remains paramount in Cubs Spring Training

MESA, AZ - MARCH 06: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs delivers a pitch during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 6, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

MESA, Ariz. – In a perfect world, these three guys would be appearing in games like this throughout the entire 2018 season. Ideally, this trio would have their health from opening day in March through the World Series in late October and early November.

Tuesday was the first time that pitchers Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow along with Ben Zobrist made their appearance in the Cubs’ lineup. Each figures to play an important part on the 2018 team, with Darvish solidifying the rotation, Morrow fortifying the bullpen, and Zobrist multiplying the number of lineup combinations with his versatility.

But Joe Maddon understands the key is getting them to that point where they can contribute consistently over the next few months. Hence each player waited almost two weeks to make their debut in spring games, all in the hopes of pacing them over a long and grueling season.

“Here’s the thing with me – of course it’s nice. The big thing is health,” said Maddon of all three making their debut against the Dodgers on Tuesday at Sloan Park. “I want them to be all well and healthy before camp.”

That’s why when Darvish was ill last Thursday the decision was to forgo his scheduled start and instead do a bullpen session. When Zobrist arrived at camp with some back issues, which was part of what plagued him during the 2017 season, he was rested for the first few weeks of spring games.

Morrow comes to the Cubs after a long postseason run with the Dodgers, one in which he pitched in 13.2 innings over three series. The key for Maddon was to work them all in slowly in hopes of a fast start and finish.

“Zo’s going to have plenty more opportunities, Yu’s going to have more opportunities,” said Maddon. “I can’t go overboard with all this, I just don’t want Yu to try and do too much today, Morrow to do too much today, Zobrist to not do too much today. It just happens to be today that we’re unwrapping them a little bit.

“They’re all in a good way, mentally and physically.”

So that way the Cubs can be when things really count in the Spring, Summer, and hopefully fall.