When the Cubs made a game of things last night, pulling to within a run in the 8th inning after being down by five, Joe Maddon flipped the switch on managing things a bit tighter and trying aggressively to win the game.
In that situation, that means you don’t stick with a relief pitcher any longer than he shows you he might not have it. But you very rarely see that “OK, that’s it” moment happen in the middle of a plate appearance.
But that’s what happened last night in the 8th inning. After walking Carson Kelley on five pitches to open the frame (with all balls yanked down and in), Wilson yanked two more pitches down and in to Harrison Bader, and Maddon came out to everyone’s surprise and made the switch to C.J. Edwards.
It couldn’t have been a good feeling for Wilson, who is already probably battling some confidence issues after coming to the Cubs and looking nothing like the guy who had been dominating with the Tigers.
“Based on his last performance, I thought he would be OK,” Maddon said of using Wilson in that spot, per ESPN. “I was trying to not have two guys on and then bring in C.J. [Edwards]. It’s a big boy’s game. He’ll be fine. We’ll get him back out there. Just wasn’t going to work tonight.”
Hopefully that’s the case. For what it’s worth, pitching coach Chris Bosio told The Score that Wilson is dealing with a stiff neck, and although it loosened up when he warmed up last night, it became apparent that he was not right. Hence the atypical pull.
With the playoffs fast approaching and the Cubs needing to set a 25-man roster, it’s hard to know what they have in Wilson, even if he were fully healthy. Is this who he is right now? A completely erratic arm who cannot be trusted in even medium-leverage moments? If so, then they cannot use a playoff roster spot on him. And if not, can he really show enough over the final five games to earn enough trust?
Personally, I don’t know what I would need to see from him in the next, say, two appearances that would convince me that Wilson’s 21.7%(!!!) walk rate with the Cubs is not a roster-prohibitive issue. Frankly, I’m just hoping he can figure it out in the offseason and still be a useful piece next year for the Cubs, because that was a big part of the reason they traded Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes to get him and Alex Avila, who is a free agent after this season.