Cubs' Yu Darvish pain-free after 35-pitch bullpen session

PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish took the biggest step in his rehab from an elbow ailment, as he threw 35 pain-free pitches during a bullpen session on Tuesday.

"For the first time in two months, I felt nothing from the first pitch, playing catch, to the last [in the] bullpen session," Darvish said through his interpreter. "This is the actual starting point. I need to build up the self-confidence from within from this point on."

On Friday, Darvish felt pain in his elbow for the first 10 pitches of a throwing session, but then he altered his mechanics and felt better. He carried that over to Tuesday, when he kept the same mechanics in play. Darvish thinks he'll simulate a couple innings in the bullpen in a couple days, take a break, then throw some more. He hasn't pitched in a big league game since late May.

"I need to work on my command for all my pitches, including my fastball," he said.

Darvish was asked if he feels like he's under microscope due to the lack of an end date to his rehab -- at least until now.

"I took the MRI, and nothing showed up, but it turns out I can't throw," Darvish said. "As much as it's a mystery to you guys, it's more of a mystery to myself because I'm the one trying to process it and grind through."

Because he has been out so long, the Cubs are viewing Darvish as another late-season addition, as they've climbed the standings to first place without him. Manager Joe Maddon is excited at the prospect of adding Darvish, Brandon Morrow (biceps) and Kris Bryant (shoulder) to his roster when they are healthy.

"The best I could is to live up to what Joe said of me," Darvish said. "I'm just going to hope to God I'm going to return healthy."

Darvish was 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts before getting injured.