Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood to fill in for the injured Jon Lester

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(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Jon Lester is headed to the 10-day injured list after straining his left hamstring in the Chicago Cubs home opener. In the veteran’s absence, the Cubs will put their faith in the unproven Tyler Chatwood for at least one start.

Early on in the season, Jon Lester has unquestionably been the Chicago Cubs best pitcher. It hasn’t just necessarily been the numbers he’s putting up, it’s been his demeanor and the way he has battled on the mound. He has grinded his way through each one of his early starts and has put the Cubs in position to win every time.

Lester has shown much more control than his fellow Cub pitchers, striking out 14 batters while walking six. That’s good for a 2.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio which is the second best on the team, trailing only Cole Hamels. So far he’s given up just four earned runs, to the tune of a 2.57 ERA.

Before he eventually left his start against the Pittsburgh Pirates with his hamstring injury, Lester was cruising. In his two innings of work, he didn’t allow a run while striking out four. He walked one batter and gave up three hits, although two of those hits came in the third inning after he had run around the bases and tweaked his hamstring.

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Throughout his career, Lester has always been Mr. Dependable. From 2006 to now, he has started 383 games, which is the fifth most during that period. He has started 30 or more games 12 times during his 14-year career. This is to show that there are few pitchers in the game more reliable or competitive than Lester.

With that said, it will be hard to keep Lester out for long as he’s always chomping at the bit to get back out on the mound. He’s slated to miss one start at least, maybe two at the most. If the injury proves not to be severe and he rehabs well, hopefully, he’ll be back out there sooner than later to anchor this Cubs pitching staff.

Enter the cast out Chatwood

Once Lester went down with his injury everyone knew in the back of their minds that Tyler Chatwood starting in place of him was a possibility. Everyone was hoping that the Cubs might have something better up their sleeve, but the truth is they don’t.

Swingman Mike Montgomery would typically be selected to make the spot start, but he’s on the 10-day injured list. Alec Mills, who made some successful spot starts last season, is also unavailable due to a neck injury that has him rehabbing in extended spring training. So, unfortunately, the only real logical option to start on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels left is Chatwood.

It’s no secret that the $12 million man didn’t work out as a starter in his first season with the Cubs. He was so horrendous that he lost his job in the middle of the season and never got it back. In total, he started 20 games and pitched 96 innings while posting a 5.16 ERA.

His biggest issue, of course, was his control, as there were times he could flat-out not find the plate. As a starter, he walked a league-leading 88 batters and ended the season with 95 walks after being moved to the bullpen. Chatwood was so frequently wild that he walked five or more batters in 11 games.

This season with a full starting rotation, Chatwood was exiled to the bullpen. His performance has been up and down as he’s appeared in four games, pitching a total of six innings. He seems to have better control of his stuff, walking five batters in comparison to six strikeouts.

He pitched one inning against Pittsburgh last night in what will probably be considered his bullpen session before his start on Sunday. He allowed one hit and a walk while striking out one batter in the tune-up. On a positive note, it was the second outing in a row that Chatwood hadn’t surrendered a run.

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As for this start on Sunday, Chatwood doesn’t need to do anything spectacular, and realistically I don’t think the Cubs are expecting him too. Chatwood’s arm isn’t stretched out to throw 100 pitches or go seven or eight innings. I’m sure the Cubs would be pleased if he went four or five solid innings while keeping them within striking distance. Then again it’s hard to expect anything from a guy who hasn’t made a start since August 18th of last season.

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