Yu Darvish felt pressure after signing a $126 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

“At the time I didn’t say anything about that, but I was thinking I should do something for the Cubs. I should win 20 games,” he said Wednesday. “This year I want to be myself. I am feeling less pressure.”

Darvish went 1-3 with 4.95 ERA in eight starts during 2018, the last coming on May 20. He was sidelined by triceps and elbow injuries, and his season ended in August when an MRI showed a stress reaction in his arm after one inning of a rehab start. The 32-year-old right-hander spoke in English, a sign he is feeling more comfortable, after his first bullpen session of spring training.

“I am feeling I am family,” he said. “I feel good right now.”

Darvish came to the major leagues from Japan before the 2012 season and became a four-time All-Star with the Texas Rangers. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2017 and struggled in the World Series, losing Games 3 and 7 against Houston.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the fact that Darvish opened up about last year’s struggles is a sign of him maturing.

“It is always impressive when somebody exposes himself, especially on this level,” Maddon said. “It is a part of moving forward. Give him credit. I was getting to know about him last year, so I didn’t know all of that about him.”

Darvish reported at 230 pounds, down 10 from last year. He said he spent more time in a gym and ate better.

A healthy Darvish would mean more depth for an already strong rotation that helped the Cubs win 95 games last season.

“If you slide him in there that makes our rotation that much deeper, which you need throughout the season,” left-hander Jon Lester said. “It’s a huge boost for us if we get the Darvish we all know he can be. Hopefully everything is behind him as far as his arm. I’m sure it is a piece of mind for him to go out and worry just about pitching.”

  • The Cubs and Sinclair Broadcast Group are launching a regional sports network in 2020 that will be the team’s exclusive TV home. The Cubs said the Marquee Sports Network will carry live game broadcasts and pregame and postgame coverage. Cubs games will be in one place, instead of split between two broadcast stations. The Cubs signed five-year contracts with WGN and WLS in 2014 ahead of plans for the network launch in 2020.

Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley tells the Chicago Tribune negotiations are underway to sign up cable and satellite providers and streaming services for the network.

CARDINALS: Adam Wainwright stood in front of his customary corner locker following the St. Louis Cardinals’ first workout at Jupiter, Fla., and said he was healthy.

“Last year going into spring training, I was struggling,” the pitcher said Wednesday. “I was trying to convince myself I was better than I was, but I was doing a poor job of it, I think.”

Wainwright had minor elbow surgery after the 2017 season and was just 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA last year, appearing in only eight regular-season games. His average fastball velocity dropped 1 mph to 89.75 mph, down from 92 mph in 2013, when he went 19-9 and helped the Cardinals reach the World Series.

“I’m excited to play baseball again without having to flinch every time I throw a ball,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright finished second or third in NL Cy Young Award voting four times in six seasons through 2014. But he is 29-19 since, averaging 18 starts per year.

Coming off a $97.5 million, five-year contract that paid $19.5 million last season, the 37-year-old right-hander agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract that allows him to earn $8 million in performance bonuses as a starting pitcher, $3 million for relief appearances and $4 million more for games finished.

PHILLIES: Pitcher Aaron Nola and the Phillies have agreed to a $45 million, four-year contract, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for this week.

The 25-year-old right-hander set career bests last year when he was a first-time All-Star, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. He would have been eligible for free agency after the 2021 season..

Under a deal announced Wednesday, Nola gets a $2 million signing bonus, $4 million this year, $8 million in 2020, $11.75 million in 2021 and $15 million in 2022. Philadelphia has a $16 million team option for 2023 with a $4.25 million buyout.

SALARY ARBITRATION: Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole and Alex Wood won their salary arbitration cases Wednesday, giving players a 6-3 advantage over teams to ensure a winning record in consecutive years for the first time since 1989-90.

Bauer won his hearing for the second straight year and was awarded $13 million by James Darby, James Oldham and Sylvia Skratek instead of the Cleveland Indians’ $11 million offer.

Cole was given a $13.5 million salary by Gil Vernon, Steven Wolf and Walt De Treux rather than the Houston Astros’ offer of $11,425,000.

Wood will get $9.65 million instead of the Cincinnati Reds’ $8.7 million offer, Dan Brent, Andrew Strongin and Phillip LaPorte decided.

Bauer and Cole topped the previous high for a salary awarded in an arbitration hearing, $10.5 million won last year by Boston outfielder Mookie Betts.

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