MESA, Arizona — The Cubs defeated the Royals 4-1 on what was the warmest afternoon of 2019 so far in the Valley of the Sun, 80 degrees, and the latter fact is meaningful, as it’s the first 80-degree day of the spring. Usually there are a couple in February.
That’s not what’s important here, just thought I’d note how nice a day it was. What’s important is the pitching performances of Jose Quintana and, even more importantly, Tyler Chatwood.
Quintana threw the first three innings and was very, very good. He walked one and allowed one hit, but got out of the inning with the hit on a nicely-executed double play. So he faced just 10 hitters and looked really, really sharp. That’s two good outings in a row for Q and I think he’s primed to have a big year.
Chatwood, though... well, you know the issues he’s had. None of that was in evidence at all in his three-inning stint that resulted in a save, for whatever that’s worth. He didn’t walk anyone. No, I am not making that up. No walks, and in fact, only one three-ball count, in facing 10 hitters over three innings. He did give up three hits, but induced a pair of double-play balls. His velocity was consistent at 94 and he hit 95 a couple of times on the Sloan Park pitch speed meter.
Here’s video of Chatwood pitching on Wednesday:
You can see, even from those two pitches, that he’s not opening up as wide in his motion as he did last year. This motion seems much more controlled. He’s throwing more strikes and inducing more ground balls. It’s early, but if he keeps this up I think there could be a place for him in the Opening Day bullpen. This is so good to see — a guy who struggled so much in 2018 has obviously put a lot of both physical and mental work into his game and you can see the improvement on the field. I’m rooting for him, it would not only help the team but would be a great redemption story.
Offensively, the Cubs pushed across a run in the second on a double by Daniel Descalso and single by Johnny Field, another in the third when Descalso got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and the third run was this leadoff homer by Victor Caratini in the sixth, his first of the spring:
Pedro Strop made his first appearance of the spring and should have been out of the inning after allowing a single and recording two outs. He (and everyone else on the team and in the stands) thought he had Frank Schwindel struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but plate umpire Rob Drake called ball three. Strop walked Schwindel and then was removed, likely for a pitch count. I thought it was a successful outing anyway. Mike Zagurski entered and allowed a run-scoring single, the only K.C. run of the day, charged to Strop.
Brad Brach also made his spring, and Cubs, debut, throwing a scoreless sixth after a leadoff double. With Brach’s illness delaying his first spring outing, the Cubs are likely to bring him along slowly. And — speculating a bit here — with the Cubs having other choices (such as Chatwood, perhaps) for the pen, and with Brach having several roster bonus clauses, it’s entirely possible he starts the year on the injured list.
Steve Cishek also threw a scoreless frame, after doing his usual run in from the pen.
All in all, it was a successful afternoon from every standpoint for the Cubs, I thought.
Attendance watch: 12,036 paid to see this one, which makes the season total for eight dates 89,831, or 11,229 per date. (Did I mention it was a gorgeous day?)
The Cubs will host the Rockies at Sloan Park Thursday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. CT. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs — I’d expect him to go into the fourth inning — and Antonio Senzatela starts for Colorado. No TV Thursday, there will be the usual audio webcast on cubs.com.