MILWAUKEE — Tyler Chatwood expected to be in a pennant race with the Cubs in September. But nobody expected this.
On the day his replacement in the starting rotation pitched another six strong innings, Chatwood quietly returned to the Cubs after a miserable second start Sunday for Class AAA Iowa.
Five months into a three-year, $38 million deal, the hard-throwing right-hander expected to lock down the back end of the Cubs’ rotation when the season started has no idea where the ball is headed when he lets it go.
After a two-start rehab assignment for a mysterious hip injury, Chatwood will finish the season on mop-up duty in the Cubs’ bullpen, his future with the team in doubt.
‘‘The arm’s still great; the stuff is still great,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘Obviously, it’s a command issue. We’ve just got to get him out there throwing strikes again. I don’t have any answers right now.’’
Chatwood has walked 93 in 101 2/3 innings, a pace that would make him the first Cubs pitcher with at least 100 innings to walk more than seven batters per nine innings. He’s at 8.23, which would make him one of only six pitchers in major-league history to top eight and the first since Bobby Witt 31 years ago.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he might have thrown his worst inning of the year to finish his start Sunday at Iowa. That third inning started like this: walk, walk, triple, walk, walk, hit-by-pitch. He struck out the seventh batter of the inning, then left the game.
‘‘I’d like to believe an offseason of just chilling out [will help] and trying to become probably less mechanical and more external, just seeing the target and throwing the baseball to it,’’ Maddon said.
What’s certain is that the way Chatwood is finishing this season, the Cubs can’t bank on him as a starter heading into next spring — if he’s still with the team.
The Cubs have a club option for 2019 on left-hander Cole Hamels, who started Monday. And left-hander Mike Montgomery has proved this season he’s more than a capable option. And don’t forget right-hander Yu Darvish.
Could they even consider handing Chatwood a rotation job? Would he have to earn one in the spring? Something else?
‘‘I think it’s too early to call something like that,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And [I] hope there’s that epiphany that arises, and all of a sudden the ball’s going where he wants it to again. But it’s hard to really evaluate all that based on what we’ve seen to this point.’’
NOTE: The Cubs lost reliever Luke Farrell to the Angels in a waiver claim. Pitchers Rob Zastryzny and Cory Mazzoni cleared waivers and returned to Iowa.
E-Z PASS LANE
Most walks per nine innings in a single season in Cubs history (100-inning minimum):
Innings Walks W/9 innings
- Tyler Chatwood, 2018 101.2 93 8.23*
- “Sad” Sam Jones, 1955 241.2 185 6.89
- Adonis Terry, 1894 163.1 123 6.78
- Turk Lown, 1951 127 90 6.38
- Turk Lown, 1956 110.2 78 6.34
*-With one month left.