The Chicago Cubs are currently working a six-man rotation, with the standard front four – Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Cole Hamels – and then part-time reliever Tyler Chatwood and prospect Adbert Alzolay filling in the back of the six.
Recovering from a shoulder impingement, Kyle Hendricks will be back eventually, which could remove one or both of those back two from the rotation. The question after yesterday’s outing, though, is whether a change will come to the six-man rotation even before Hendricks returns.
About yesterday: Tyler Chatwood is so very Tyler Chatwood.
His first inning yesterday was so good – so overpowering – that Michael texted our group right after to note that sometimes he forgets why the Cubs even pursued Chatwood in the first place, and then you see an inning like that and remember. For anyone not watching, it really was that good. Nasty movement. Huge velocity. Overwhelmed batters. It was a great start.
And then, of course, it wasn’t.
Within the span of an inning, Chatwood’s command totally left him, and although the Freddie Freeman home run was admittedly as flukey as it gets, all those baserunners Chatwood allowed were not (10 hits and walks in just 5.0 innings). Chatwood’s previous 4.0 inning start against the Mets was a mixed bag.
I don’t even know if you can be frustrated at this point, because it’s all been there for us to see for a long time with Chatwood: some of the most tantalizing stuff you’ll see, but almost no ability to consistently harness it.
Against that backdrop, and with Hendricks not a lock to return before the All-Star break, the questions percolate: Does Chatwood get another start at this point? Does he head back into the bullpen? Were the Cubs hoping to create a situation where they might be able to move some of Chatwood’s contract in-season? Or do they really want him as their 6th starter? All TBD.
There are also questions about Alzolay’s role. The Cubs opted to keep Alzolay up with the big league team for now, so even if the Cubs drop back down to a five-man rotation, they could give that next fifth start to Alzolay instead of Chatwood (indeed, they absolutely SHOULD do that, in my view).
I suspect we won’t see the Cubs commit to much of anything right away, though, because they have their starts for the weekend already lined up, and if something goes sideways and they need three or four quality middle innings, they might turn to Alzolay.
Relatedly, I love this love:
As for Hendricks, he will throw a 45-pitch bullpen session tomorrow before the Cubs figure out next steps. He got a cortisone shot for his shoulder impingement earlier this month, and feels good (Cubs.com): “I haven’t regressed at all. Everything’s felt really good – 100 percent. It’s responded well to everything we’ve done. So we can keep moving forward.”
I still tend to think we don’t see Hendricks back until after the All-Star break, which would mean there are about one or two starts to cover. One each to Chatwood and Alzolay? Just one in a piggyback situation? Or just give it/them to Alzolay?
We’ll see where things shake out after this weekend.