Chatwood is sure he’ll be in rotation
Was there any doubt about it to begin with?
There isn’t any doubt anymore. Tyler Chatwood is in the Cubs’ starting rotation. He announced as much Sunday after pitching in an intrasquad scrimmage at Wrigley Field, though “announced” is probably too strong a word.
“As I know right now, I’m starting,” he said.
It’s not just because Jose Quintana injured his pitching thumb over a week ago while washing dishes. Entering spring training in February, Chatwood was the likeliest answer at fifth starter for a team that had no clear alternative. The closest thing to one was Alec Mills, who has a good chance — with Quintana’s timetable for a return unknown — to open the season as one of the five.
Chatwood and Mills squared off Sunday, with Mills faring better. Chatwood gave up four runs in five hits in three innings — the biggest blow a two-run Kyle Schwarber triple — while Mills was touched for a run in his 2⅓ innings.
It’s a big season for Chatwood, 30, in the third and final year of a free-agent deal that many would say already went bust for the Cubs. He led the league in walks allowed (95) in 2018 and made only five starts, appearing 33 times in relief, in 2019. His best couple of months in a Cubs uniform would certainly change the narrative.
“I’m excited about that,” he said.
Chatwood’s wife, who is pregnant, and their 2-year-old are back home in California. It’s the toughest part, he said, of restarting a season that will be nothing if not strange and — at all times — a bit scary.
“But it’s also fun to get out there and compete and play baseball again,” Chatwood said.
Chatwood and Mills will meet again. So will Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, who were the opposing starters in Saturday’s scrimmage. And Jon Lester and Colin Rea will start in the Cubs’ next scrimmage, Tuesday or Wednesday, and stay on schedule together from there.
Because of the time crunch before the July 24 opener, the Cubs don’t have the luxury of putting each starter on an individual schedule. They need to keep their options more open than that because they can’t bank on everybody being equally ready when real games start.
How’s Lester doing? Fine. He threw a bullpen session Sunday but is coming along a bit more slowly than his rotation mates because — how else to say it? — he’s old.
“As he put it,” manager David Ross said, “he wanted to save as many bullets as he possibly could.”
Some guys who are making solid contact in the (very) early going: Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Victor Caratini.
Someone who isn’t yet: Anthony Rizzo. Panic!
Second baseman Jason Kipnis swung the bat well Sunday and made a terrific play ranging to his right on a ground ball, adding a strong throw to first for the final out of the scrimmage.
Tyler Chatwood (top) and Alec Mills went head-to-head during an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at Wrigley Field.