Chat­wood is sure he’ll be in ro­ta­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY STEVE GREEN­BERG, STAFF RE­PORTER sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @SLGreen­berg

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.

Pitching plans

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.”

Early looks

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.

KAMIL KRZACZYNSK­I/AP

Tyler Chat­wood (top) and Alec Mills went head-to-head dur­ing an in­trasquad scrim­mage Sun­day at Wrigley Field.

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