The Cubs have made their plan for today’s game, which was moved up to 2:20pm CT because of anticipated bad weather tonight: it’ll be Colin Rea making the start.
Tyler Chatwood was scratched last night with back tightness that will now have him out at least through tomorrow, according to David Ross. The hope is that Chatwood could start one of the doubleheader games against the Cardinals on Monday, with Kyle Hendricks starting the other. It doesn’t sound yet like there’s confidence that Chatwood will for sure be able to return then, however.
In the meantime, Alec Mills got bumped up from today to last night to fill in for Chatwood, and now it’s Rea, who had made a couple successful appearances in relief, getting the start in place of Mills. He’s not stretched out as a starter, but Rea’s last outing was two innings. I expect the Cubs are hoping they could get three or four innings out of Rea. It’s not ideal.
Rea, 30, has thrown only 3.0 innings in the bigs this year. He’s looked fantastic, but it’s hard to really know what you’re going to get. He was the PCL Pitcher of the Year in 2019 for the Iowa Cubs, and is a former top prospect who took a bit of a long road to getting back on track after Tommy John surgery in 2016. Today will mark his first big league start in four years. Very cool story, and I hope he looks great.
Today’s irrational thought: remember Luke Farrell? He was a guy who had some success as a minor league starter, but his stuff played up in a few outings in relief with the Cubs in 2018 – 3.63 ERA over 17.1 innings with good peripherals and passing the eye test. Then the Cubs needed a fill-in starter, he took the turn, struggled, and then did not have success in relief thereafter (7.07 ERA over 14.0 innings).
Like I said, that’s irrational. Different players do different things. Just because there are superficial parallels doesn’t really mean anything. I guess what I think about, though, is that guys who’ve been starters for their whole career often want to, you know, start in the big leagues. They get a shot when there’s a need, and maybe if it doesn’t go great or doesn’t last, that can feel defeating. Don’t get me wrong: if Rea has figured some stuff out and could now do as a starter what he’s been flashing in relief? Four really good-looking pitches, great movement on his cutter, and a 95 mph fastball with life? I mean, OK. Go with God and be a starter! I just suspect, given his past as a high-command/control/contact guy, what we saw was his stuff and velo playing up in relief. And I really don’t want to lose that, because a guy who could do for two innings at a time what he’s been doing? That’s a really valuable arm.
Anyway: good luck to Rea today, and good luck to Chatwood on getting past the back issue. If Chatwood can’t go next week, the Cubs will have to find two fill-in starters (one each for the doubleheaders on Monday and Wednesday) in addition to Rea, who wouldn’t be fully rested again by Wednesday unless his outing today is really short and then he pitches on short rest. Not impossible, given that he’s starting today four days after his two-inning appearance in Cleveland. But hey, if he’s cruising today, just let him go 50+ pitches and worry about Wednesday on Wednesday.