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Reds 12, Cubs 3: Back to the Tyler Chatwood drawing board

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Chatwood had a bad evening and the Cubs got blown out.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — I went to Tuesday night’s game at Sloan Park all ready to return and write nice words about Tyler Chatwood, who had thrown pretty well in previous outings this spring. I had some hope that these good appearances might mean Chatwood was ready to contribute to the 2019 Cubs, perhaps in a bullpen role.

Well. He still might, but he’s going to have to be better than he was in the Cubs’ 12-3 loss to the Reds. A whole lot better.

Chatwood’s first inning wasn’t bad. He fell behind all three hitters, but struck one out and got the other two on a fly to right and a popup to short left on which Kris Bryant made a nice over-the-shoulder grab.

Then he fell apart in the second inning. A leadoff walk. A single. A hard-hit ball caught in center field. Another walk, loading the bases. Is this sounding familiar?

But Chatwood could have been out of the inning. He got the next hitter (and you’ll note I haven’t named Reds names here, they sent a bunch of backups and minor leaguers) to hit a comebacker on which he made a nice play. It should have been an inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play.

Chatwood fired that ball over Victor Caratini’s head. It went to the backstop. Two runs scored. There’s no video available, or I’d show it to you, and it was pretty, pretty bad. Another single scored two more, and then Chatwood issued another walk, and that was the end of his night.

The only thing I can conclude about this bad outing is this. Chatwood has pitched four times this spring, two starts and two relief appearances. Results:

Starts: 3⅓ innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 6 runs (4 earned), 2 strikeouts, one HR, 10.80 ERA
Relief: 6 innings, 6 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 4 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA

I mean... that’s like two different pitchers. It hints at some sort of issue with... starting. Maybe Chatwood overthinks too hard when preparing for a start, and that leads to him falling back into bad habits; maybe when coming into a game in relief he can just throw. I know Chatwood wants to be a starter on this team, but with the five starters the Cubs have that simply isn’t going to happen.

Chatwood, as has been noted many times here, has good stuff. He showed that Tuesday night. He sat at 94-95 with his fastball. I still think he might be of use to the Cubs in a relief role, and that’s especially true with this going on:

I’d like to see Chatwood on the mound again, in relief, to see if there’s anything to my theory. Maybe they can still get some good innings out of him. It won’t be as a starter, though.

Mike Montgomery, who would be the next guy the Cubs turn to as a starter if one of the first five is injured, made his first spring appearance Tuesday night. The first batter he faced, Kyle Farmer, smashed a homer off him, but after that Montgomery settled down. He allowed one further run due in part to a couple of uncharacteristic errors committed by Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, but in general I thought he threw pretty well.

The Cubs offense disappeared for most of this game. They had just four hits and a run through eight innings, then the minor leaguers and non-roster guys put across a pair in the ninth, by which time there were only a few hundred left in the Sloan Park seats (and even those runs shouldn’t have scored, because the game had been extended by an error by the Reds shortstop that should have ended things).

Albert Almora Jr. left the game after three innings, with Johnny Field batting for him in the last of the third. I hope nothing’s wrong with Almora.

Attendance watch: Weirdly, of the seven scheduled Cactus League games Tuesday (five at night), only the Cubs and Reds played nine innings. Four of the games were cancelled before they began, a fifth (Rangers/Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields) was halted in the top of the fifth (so not an official game), and the Brewers and Giants squeezed in five official innings before rain washed out the rest of their game in Scottsdale. Rain was all over the Phoenix area Tuesday, but Sloan Park got almost none of it, just a brief shower in the third inning. The attendance was announced as 12,536, and surprisingly, it looked like there were very few no-shows. Those who did come to Sloan were treated to this pre-game sight:

That rainbow hung around for a good 20 minutes, too, much longer than you’d usually see a rainbow. The season total attendance at Sloan is now 129,696 for 10 dates, or 12,970 per date.

The weather is supposed to start improving Wednesday and temperatures should be near 80 by the weekend. I don’t think I can remember a March where there has been this much rain and cool weather in the Phoenix area, not this late in the month, anyway. The Cubs will travel to their old park, HoHoKam Stadium, to face the Athletics Wednesday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. CT. Jon Lester gets the start for the Cubs and Mike Fiers will go for the A’s. No TV Wednesday; there will be an audio webcast on cubs.com.