Cubs still don't have any answers with Tyler Chatwood


The Cubs bullpen got another wave of reinforcements Monday in Milwaukee, activating Tyler Chatwood and Brian Duensing off the disabled list.

But while the two pitchers arrived at Miller Park at the same time and both have had disappointing 2018 campaigns, they're in completely different places at the moment.

Duensing looked and sounded refreshed, saying he felt good after another bout with left shoulder discomfort and liked the results of his last few outings in the minors as his velocity has started to tick back up.

But Chatwood, on the other hand, is a different story. 

Well, not exactly. It's the same story — command is still the issue.

The 28-year-old right-hander hit the disabled list last month with a hip injury and then went to Triple-A Iowa for a rehab start on Aug. 27, where he gave up 2 runs in 4.1 innings and walked 5 batters.

Things got even worse in the second rehab outing Sunday when Chatwood was tagged for 5 earned runs in only 2.1 innings, again walking 5 batters.

He's now walked 30 batters in his last 24.1 innings between the pair of rehab starts and the big leagues.

So what now? 

"We just look for spots to get him out there," Joe Maddon said. "Not gonna bump him in the rotation or anything. It's just keep working and attempt to get him out there and keep trying to unlock this thing.

"The arm's doing great, the stuff is still great. Obviously it's a command issue. Physically, he's fine. We just gotta get him out there throwing strikes again. I don't have any answers right now."

There really aren't many answers to glean from anywhere on the Chatwood situation at this point. He believed he had found some things mechanically earlier in the season, but was "fighting it" in games and falling back into bad habits.

Those adjustments never translated to resuts on the mound, even with a mini-break when he and his wife had their first child. Or when he was bumped out of the rotation and into the bullpen. Or now on the recent DL stint.

To give you an idea of where Chatwood is at with his struggles: He has only pitched 7.2 innings in the big leagues since July 26 and yet he still has walked 16 more hitters (93-77) than the next closest pitcher in baseball — White Sox rookie Lucas Giolito, who has notched 49.1 more innings than Chatwood.

This isn't a situation where the Cubs just cut ties with Chatwood after the year and call it a wash. 

He signed a three-year, $38 million contract over the winter and the Cubs had high hopes for him rebounding away from a hitter's environment in Coors Field and becoming a big part of the rotation in Chicago for the next few years.

It obviously hasn't worked that way, but this is still only Year 1 of the deal and Chatwood doesn't have a history of terrible control issues.

"I'd like to believe an offseason of just chilling out and trying to become probably less mechanical and more external — just seeing the target, throwing the baseball to it," Maddon said. "Some things we're still learning about him. As long as he's well — which he will be and he is — command.

"I don't even know how else to say it. He doesn't know where the ball is going right now, obviously, on a consistent basis. We gotta get him back to that and if we can, the stuff is high end."

Maddon couldn't project what the Cubs might do with Chatwood next spring, citing how hard it is to evaluate all that right now in the middle of a pennant race.

Both Chatwood and Duensing were expected to be a big part of the Cubs' pitching staff prior to the 2018 season, but it hasn't played out that way.

Who knows if Duensing will be able to recover enough to be a part of the Cubs' postseason roster, though the bullpen could use another reliable left-handed option and he fit that bill all last season and as recently as May this year.

But with Chatwood, the conversation is strictly on 2019. 

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