Cubs' Chatwood ready to put last season behind him
MESA, Ariz. -- If Tyler Chatwood is at all skittish about getting back on a major-league mound to start a game, he's not showing it.
Chatwood goes right from last season's wildfire flameout to the frying pan Sunday when he gets the ball to start against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale.
"I feel good, really good, excited," he said. "Yeah, you're going to see different hitters in the box, a different team. I'm sure there's going to be some adrenaline. But it will be fun."
As almost all Cubs fans know, last season was anything but fun for the now-29-year-old right-hander.
The Cubs signed him to a three-year deal with the hopes that getting him out of hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado would allow them to strike gold.
Instead Chatwood stepped in something else.
Unable to find home plate with a GPS, he led the major leagues with 95 walks issued in 103⅔ innings while striking out 85 and going 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA. He had a feverish WHIP of 1.80, a fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark of 5.60 and a wins above replacement (WAR) of minus-0.5.
Chatwood lost his spot in the starting rotation and would not have figured in the Cubs' postseason plans had they advanced past the wild-card game.
Instead of sulking, Chatwood got right back to it on the off-season.
"Obviously, I knew something was going on with my mechanics, and I couldn't fix it during the year," he said. "As soon as we were done last year, I watched a lot of videos, saw what I was doing and, luckily, I had some good people to work with to try to get that fixed, and I feel like I did.
"I was back home in California. I threw with (former Cubs reliever) Jesse Chavez every day, and I was with the University of Redlands with their coaching staff."
Chatwood said almost all of the problem was physical.
"Created a bad habit, taking away something I had done my whole life," he said. "Essentially, my body was going to do it one way or another. That's what happened."
Even though repeated failure can take a toll mentally, Chatwood insists his confidence didn't waver.
"I was good still," he said. "Obviously I knew something was wrong, and I was trying hard to fix it because I take pride in what I do. But I felt like the harder I did, the harder I tried, the worse it got. But no, I feel good and I feel ready to go."
The Cubs have support on hand. Chatwood is familiar with first-year pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who previously worked with the Cubs in game-planning and video study.
"Tommy's good," Chatwood said. "We were all on the same page the whole off-season. I'd send him videos whenever I threw bullpens, and we'd kind of go back and forth. It was really good."
The Cubs' starting rotation appears set, with Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana.
But the Cubs do have an investment in Chatwood. Manager Joe Maddon said the focus is on moving forward.
"That was a part of the meeting, to have him really understand that, 'We want you to really not focus on last year. Focus on right now,'" Maddon said. "I know the adjustments that he's made this off-season, from what I'm seeing, he's staying pretty much staying right there. He's staying in that lane.
"Of course it didn't work out that way, but you don't want to continually go back there. Let's just keep moving this thing forward. 'We know how good you are.'"
The Cubs also can offer support from former major-leaguer (and Cub) Bob Tewskbury, the organization's new mental-skills coach.
"Tewks can help," Maddon said. "Tewks being both proficient at his present job as a mental-skills coach and formerly as a pretty good pitcher combines a lot of things. He creates this package. The cachet that he creates is appealing to a lot young, especially, pitchers."
Chatwood will be stretched out to start during spring training. It looks like he'll be ticketed for long and middle relief along with Mike Montgomery from the left side.
With all the tribulations he has faced, Chatwood says he is still happy to be a Cub.
"One hundred percent," he said. "I didn't lose my stuff. I still have all my stuff. I feel locked in right now, and I'm excited to get going. I think everybody has a bad year. Mine happened to be last year. So I'm looking to move on from it and get going on this new one."