Later tonight, the Cubs’ fifth starter, Tyler Chatwood, will try for the third time to make his third start of the season. After being rained/snowed out on Sunday and Monday, Chatwood’s start has twice been pushed back, and the Cubs now have three games to make up later in the year. They also had their home opener delayed a day by weather. Stupid freaking weather. Sorry. This post is not about weather. Well, not exactly.
As Brett discussed in the Bullets this morning, the Cubs will now have fewer off-days and some double-headers later in the year, which will create a need for a sixth starter at times (something Joe Maddon likes to do at some point anyway). Fortunately, the Cubs basically have two “sixth starters” on the roster already in Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery, and then some seventh-type starters hanging out in Triple-A.
But there’s one other guy who *could* conceivably work into the mix as a sixth starter, or take some of the pressure of such a starter by sliding into the bullpen – but not until much later in the year – and his name is Drew Smyly.
If you recall, the Cubs signed Smyly to a two-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, knowing full well that he wasn’t likely to contribute much on the field this year, aside from, perhaps, some relief innings in September, after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
But Smyly is feeling good in his recovery and is starting to think more seriously about being a factor this season: “The goal is to be ready to help this team in August,” said the left-hander via the Chicago Sun Times. “That’d be a pretty awesome way to end the year … to get back healthy and provide a little boost to the team down the stretch going into hopefully October.”
Smyly, who just finished up a short rest period after eight months of rehab, went on to comment that everything has been going great and that he and his arm feel strong. Gordon Wittenmyer even revealed that, barring a set-back, Smyly is headed towards a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as July. Naturally, that plan is making him very optimistic for the rest of the season, and he’s viewing a return in September as more of a worst case scenario.
Although starting *this season* seems like a bit of a pipe-dream, bolstering the bullpen as a reliever is not. And from the sounds of it, Smyly wouldn’t mind pitching out of the bullpen at all, where he’s had a lot of success before. Sure, the long-term (i.e. 2019) goal should remain getting Smyly looks as a starter, but don’t sleep on his abilities as a reliever. As a full-time bullpen arm in 2013, Smyly earned a 2.37 ERA (2.31 FIP) and 1.8 fWAR over 76.0 innings pitched. That’s freakin’ awesome. And while you shouldn’t expect him to be himself right out of the gate, clearly the potential is there.
So for now, your update is 1) Smyly’s feeling good, healthy, and strong, 2) he’s eyeing a rehab stint in July, and 3) he could return to the big leagues as soon as August. At that point, we’ll have to reevaluate how good we think he can be this year, but there’s an outside chance he can contribute meaningfully before 2018 is over. More from Smyly here at the Sun-Times.