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Tyler Chatwood extremely encouraged by early-spring work: ‘It’s the best I’ve ever been’

4 years agoTony Andracki

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It’s “Best Shape of His Life” season around baseball right now but for Tyler Chatwood, it’s “best I’ve ever been” season.

After tossing a scoreless first inning in his spring debut against the likes of Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, Chatwood is confident about the opportunity in front of him.

The Cubs didn’t re-sign Cole Hamels in the offseason and only added Jharel Cotton to the starting pitcher mix, so the door was open for Chatwood to slide back into the final spot in the rotation.

The 30-year-old right-hander firmly believes his best days are ahead of him.

“I think there’s still a lot of untapped potential,” Chatwood said at Camelback Ranch Sunday afternoon. “Right now, it’s the best I’ve ever been. I’m able to set up pitches, I’m able to see stuff, have confidence if I miss and come back with a breaking ball. I feel really good.”

Chatwood signed a three-year, $38 million free agent deal with the Cubs before the 2018 season and wound up leading the league in walks (95) in 103.2 innings in his first season in Chicago. He bounced back last year working as a spot starter and long reliever, posting a 3.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 76.2 innings while working his free passes back to his career level (4.3 BB/9).

Chatwood is vying against Monday’s starter Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills (who started Saturday’s game), Cotton and Colin Rea (who relieved Chatwood for two innings Sunday) for the final rotation spot and he feels like the job is his to take.

“Yeah, when I signed here three years ago, that was the whole point,” Chatwood said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole career. Last year was tough, but the way I pitched at the end of the year, I feel like it set me up for a good year this year and I’m excited to have that.”

So what’s the difference in Chatwood and why is he so excited about his mechanics and “stuff” right now?

“I’ve never been able to dissect, ‘all right, I missed with the two-seam [fastball] and instead of trying to force another one, why don’t you just throw a cutter?'” Chatwood said. “Just playing off each other. The ball’s going different ways, [making an] x in the strike zone, up, down.

“I feel like I’m understanding it a lot better.”

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