Matt Swarmer has suddenly emerged as an intriguing piece for Cubs rotation
On a day where the entirety of Cubs nation is focused on the debut of Caleb Kilian, another starting pitcher went out and reminded everybody why he should be on their radar.
Matt Swarmer took the ball in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader and — just like his MLB debut on Monday — was downright impressive in leading the Cubs to a 6-1 victory.
The 28-year-old right-hander neutralized a Cardinals lineup that put up 14 runs on Friday and has been one of the best in baseball over the last few weeks.
Swarmer allowed just 1 run in 6 innings — a home run by St. Louis leadoff hitter Tommy Edman — and struck out 5.
“Very impressive,” David Ross said. “Was never really in trouble. Had both the slider and the fastball working up, in, out. Did a really nice job against a really good lineup.”
With the outing, Swarmer accomplished a feat no Cubs rookie has done since 1939:
Matt Swarmer is the 1st Cubs rookie to go 6+ IP with no more than 1 ER allowed in each of his 1st two career MLB starts since 1939 (Gene Lillard). Thanks to @jsfeldman2 for confirming.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 4, 2022
Swarmer now has as many quality starts as Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley this season and only Marcus Stroman (3) has more on the Cubs pitching staff.
Even more impressive, Swarmer’s slider was absolutely dominant. He induced 14 swings-and-misses Saturday — 13 of which came off the slider.
That pitch fooled Paul Goldschmidt (who has been the hottest hitter on the planet of late), Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman multiple times, with 2 swinging strikes each.
Swarmer feels confident in his slider and can manipulate the pitch in a variety of different ways. He said he started off Saturday’s outing with a version of the pitch that dropped more, resembling something of a splitter. But when he wants to really put guys away, he throws his slider harder to get more late bite.
“It’s just straight downer,” Ross said. “The lefties read fastball out of hand — it’s on the same plane as the fastball and then it just kinda disappears. You get real fastball swings from hitters. Not like, ‘oh there’s a slider and I try to adjust my swing.’ They swing through it, which means it looks just like a fastball out of hand and goes straight down.”
Swarmer’s dad, sister and agent were in attendance for his first MLB win Saturday and he said he plans to keep the game scorecard as a memento.
“Oh man, it’s incredible,” Swarmer said. “I always thought about being here. Now, I’m like competing with the best guys. It’s so cool. I’m just living in the moment right now.”
He admitted there were multiple moments throughout the game where he realized he was facing a bunch of MLB stars who he had spent years watching, like Goldschmidt or Arenado or the legendary Albert Pujols.
“I’m just locked into the glove,” Swarmer said. “I’m just going off what Willson Contreras has for me. Just not trying to think about the hitters as much. I know there’s some big name guys, but you have to avoid it. It is definitely hard. You’re just like, ‘wow, he’s actually in the box with me.’”
Swarmer’s strong outing earned him plenty of love from Pitching Ninja on Twitter, including a hilarious comparison of his mechanics:
Matt Swarmer vs. John Cleese/Ministry of Silly Walks, Leg Lift Mechanics. pic.twitter.com/9uMzvFtAaR— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2022
The Cubs need starting pitching right now with veterans Wade Miley and Drew Smyly on the IL. Miley — who is nursing a shoulder injury — will throw a bullpen Sunday and has been feeling “great,” manager David Ross said.
With the way he has pitched to begin his career, Swarmer has earned himself an extended opportunity in the Cubs rotation.