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Thoughts from the Cubs’ 8th intrasquad scrimmage

1 year agoTony Andracki

Wednesday afternoon marked the 8th intrasquad scrimmage in Cubs summer camp, with the game finishing in a 4-4 tie on Marquee Sports Network.

Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills started opposite each other in the 5-inning affair as they look on track for spots in the regular season rotation.

Chatwood looked good early, facing the minimum through 2 innings. But then in the 3rd, he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a single before Ian Happ hit a 3-run blast into the basket in left field.

The next inning, Willson Contreras hit a long home run to left-center off Chatwood — the 4th blast in 8 scrimmage games for the All-Star catcher in summer camp.

Chatwood finished with about 70 pitches in 4 innings of work with 4 strikeouts and the 4 runs allowed.

The Cubs have consistently cautioned not to read too much into performance in scrimmage games and they’re confident Chatwood is going to be locked in come Opening Day and have a big season.

“He’s in a great place,” David Ross said Wednesday morning before the scrimmage. “I’m super excited about the season ahead for him and our rotation being a guy that has legitimate stuff. He’s got a big repertoire that I don’t think he was able to take advantage of before. The 2-seam is really good, the changeup and he’s throwing a cutter — I know he likes it a lot.

“I have a ton of confidence in Chatty and I’m excited about the season he has ahead of him. I think he feels like he has something to prove and you can tell there’s a little bit of that chip. Like, ‘I worked all offseason, I understand my past’ and how he’s performed and there’s no signs of this guy letting off the gas. He’s full throttle wanting that starter’s spot, earned it and I can’t wait to see what he does this year.”

Chatwood, 30, is in his third season with the Cubs after signing a free-agent deal prior to 2018. After a tough debut in Chicago in 2018 where he struggled with his command and mechanics, he rebounded and posted a 3.76 ERA in 38 appearances (5 starts) while bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen.

Mills was initially in line to be the long relief option for the 2020 Cubs, but José Quintana’s thumb injury opened up a spot on the starting staff. The 28-year-old right-hander has performed well in limited duty in Chicago over the last couple seasons with a 3.17 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 54 innings.

On Wednesday, Mills gave up a solo homer to Josh Phegley (who continues to rake this summer after a strong spring training in Arizona) and then ran into trouble in the 3rd inning against his teammates. He gave up 5 straight hits — beginning with a double by prospect Christopher Morel — that led to 3 runs. Kris Bryant and Javy Báez had RBI singles and Phegley drove in the final run with an RBI fielder’s choice ground out.

The Cubs were missing six players from Wednesday’s scrimmage as they awaited results from Monday’s COVID-19 tests. To help fill out the lineups, the organization called up four players from the South Bend camp – Robel García, Brennen Davis, Miguel Amaya and Morel.

Here’s how the two squads lined up for the game:

AWAY (blue uniforms)

1. Ian Happ – CF
2. Víctor Caratini – 1B
3. Kyle Schwarber – LF
4. Willson Contreras – C
5. Jason Kipnis – 2B
6. Hernán Pérez – SS
7. Steven Souza Jr. – RF
8. Robel García – 3B
9. Miguel Amaya – DH/C

HOME (white uniforms)

1. Kris Bryant – 1B
2. Nico Hoerner – 2B
3. Javy Báez – SS
4. Jason Heyward – CF
5. Josh Phegley – C
6. David Bote – 3B
7. Brennen Davis – CF
8. Ian Miller – LF
9. Christopher Morel – DH

NOTES

—Anthony Rizzo is still dealing with some tightness in his lower back. He had an MRI Tuesday, which showed the expected inflammation in his left rib cage/thoracic area. He didn’t play in Wednesday’s scrimmage but he still hopes to be ready for the start of the season.

—Souza continues to show his legs are feeling just fine as he stole 2 bases in Wednesday’s scrimmage. He also made a nice diving catch to rob Bote of a hit in the 5th inning. Souza missed last year with a knee injury and used the shutdown to his advantage to build strength in his legs and he’s apparently running just fine.

—The Cubs put clubhouse manager Danny Mueller in left field for the top of the 5th inning as Miller moved from left field to right to give Heyward a break. At the same time, Báez was also subbed out with Hoerner moving to shortstop and Cubs minor league infield coordinator Jonathan Mota playing some second base. Morel moved from DH to third base and Bote moved to first base with Bryant getting off his feet for the last inning.

—Hoerner’s timing at the plate looks right on track as he has 4 hits over the last 2 scrimmage games. Three of those knocks were hard-hit grounders right back up the middle and into center field. On the other end of the second base battle, Kipnis made a nice diving stop to rob Miller of a hit in the bottom of the 4th.

—The Cubs begin their exhibition slate Sunday evening against the White Sox at Wrigley Field.

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