Drew Smyly Let the Curveball Eat and It Worked Quite Well

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Drew Smyly Let the Curveball Eat and It Worked Quite Well

Chicago Cubs

I wouldn’t try to argue that Drew Smyly’s first start of the season in Cincinnati was a “good” one, but I would (and did) say that a lot of the damage came on crappy contact that found grass, and I don’t know that the final line in the game was fully reflective of his performance.

In other words, I wasn’t more or less concerned about Smyly after that start. I was wholly unmoved in any direction.

That all said, it was still really nice to see him have a strong follow-up outing last night against the Mariners. It doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it was certainly a reminder of what he showed last year starting for the Cubs: very little damage done (1 ER), while managing contact (2 H), not walking guys (1 BB), and netting some strikeouts (7), albeit over a relatively short outing (5.0 IP). You’ll gladly take that every time, especially with a bullpen features several multi-inning guys.

When Smyly is at his best, that big curveball almost becomes his primary offering, and that was the case last night. Nearly half of his pitches on the night were the curveball, and it got him a whopping 7 whiffs on 36 pitches. When it’s on, it allows him to be more bold with the fastball, too, as guys are sitting back for the curveball.

And sometimes he just keeps the curveball coming, which messes with the hitters even more:

You may remember that Smyly was still sorting out some arm slot issues by the end of Spring Training, and it sounds like he’s getting close to where he wants to be.

‘‘In the end, it’s going to help the pitch shape, it’s going to help location, command, stuff,’’ (Cubs pitching coach Tommy) Hottovy said. ‘‘It’s also going to help recovery, and that was our biggest thing with him.’’

So even though Smyly’s arm position this spring was better than it had been in spring training of 2022, Hottovy pointed out the difference from ‘‘peak Smyly,’’ when he posted a 2.03 ERA from mid-July through the end of August last season ….

‘‘It’s tough because in spring you’re able to work on things, but then you can also get into bad habits of focusing too much on one thing or the other,’’ Smyly said. ‘‘And you kind of get sidetracked from the actual game.’’

On Monday, Smyly said his arm position was feeling more natural. And he wasn’t as in his head about his mechanics; he was just attacking.

Very good to hear, especially knowing that getting his mechanics right will help Smyly stay healthy. He has missed a lot of time in his career with various injuries, including the oblique injury last year. I tend to think if he can just stay on the field this year, he’s going to continue to be a valuable starting pitcher for the Cubs.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.