The Tribune’s Mark Gonzales answers your Cubs questions.
I read your recent article about Tyler Chatwood. I was wondering if he and rest of the starting rotation this week have been suffering from what Steve Stone has talked about occasionally — a spring training “dead arm?” Stone would say that during spring training and even the regular season, every pitcher — especially starters — go through this period. Not only did Chatwood struggle in his start, but Jon Lester gave up seven runs in his start and the other starters have struggled this week. I also wonder if they were showcasing him for a trade? — Rick L.
I do believe there’s such a thing as a “dead-arm” period in which pitchers may try to do too much too soon and eventually battle fatigue. I think this was the case with reliever Tony Barnette, and it happened to Lester during his first spring with the Cubs in 2015.
But I don’t think that’s the case with Chatwood. His velocity was normal. I just think he couldn’t throw strikes with any consistency against the Reds but has since rebounded.
Some pitchers have been showcased earlier this spring, but the results have been mixed. And injuries might make those pitchers more valuable to the Cubs than other teams.
The big issue for Chatwood and the Cubs will be keeping him sharp as a reliever.
As a lifelong Cub fan, I’m wondering our reasons for excitement this year. Two runs in 22 of the most important innings to end last season, and President Theo Epstein addressed it with Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach. Seemingly, the rest of the National League — the Central in particular — made moves to get better. Are we just supposed to think the Cubs will be better because Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant are healthy? — George R.
The finish to last season was sobering, and I think some players were trying to win games with one swing instead of adjusting to the situation. It happens to a lot of teams during the course of a season. I do think the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland didn’t get enough credit for his performance in the NL wild-card game.
The Cubs hope the return of a healthy Bryant will be the equivalent of acquiring a solid hitter, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. will continue to improve and Willson Contreras will make the necessary adjustments to hit with more authority.
Descalso will give the Cubs a big lift. But the lack of an offensive overhaul indicates the front office has placed its trust in the young hitters.
Isn’t about time the Cubs cut ties with Brian Duensing? A lot of spring performances have been better than his. — Greg
The performances by the other lefties haven’t been much better, with the possible exception of Kyle Ryan. A bigger question could be: Will the Cubs, who say they have no money to spend, cut ties with Duensing and pay his $3.5 million contract or stick with him in hopes he can be serviceable? Or will they trade Ian Happ for bullpen help? We may find out sooner than the March 28 opener.
Who has surprised you the most this spring? — Ralph U.
Outfielder Mark Zagunis, whom I thought might be taken off the 40-man roster last fall. Zagunis appears more aggressive at the plate, and it’s shows with his four home runs. I know spring training results can be misleading, but Zagunis looks as if he’s more ready to hit rather than be content drawing a walk. This is an encouraging development for his future and for the Cubs in the event they trade an outfielder or someone gets hurt.