Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has had a tough start at the plate this season, but manager Joe Maddon isn’t worried.
“He’s fine, conversationally — I think he’s actually handling it fairly well,” Maddon said Friday before the Cubs beat the Diamondbacks 5-1. “Yes, it’s not gone his way yet, but he’s doing fine, and he’s working on the right things right now, so let’s be a little more patient and see how it works out.”
Entering the game, Bryant was hitting .219 (14-for-64) with seven walks, 18 strikeouts and one home run (on Opening Day).
But something clicked against the Diamondbacks. Despite less than ideal conditions with the wind blowing in, he went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a walk for only his third multi-hit game this season.
Though the results haven’t been there overall, pitcher Kyle Hendricks said strong at-bats are still important.
“It doesn’t matter if anybody is struggling — you’re still going to get a tough at-bat from every single guy in our lineup,” he said. “It’s just got to wear you down from the other side. If we don’t get some early, we’re eventually going to break through — and there’s a high possibility we do break through early. And once we get a lead, we’re pretty dangerous with that.”
Chatwood to start Sunday
Right-hander Tyler Chatwood will make his first start of the season Sunday at Wrigley Field. Though the Cubs’ schedule could permit them to go another week with a four-man rotation, they decided Chatwood was the better matchup against the Diamondbacks, who have struggled so far against right-handed pitchers. Before facing Hendricks on Friday, they were hitting .248 with a .758 OPS against righties, compared to .304 with an .881 OPS against left-handers.
Last season, Chatwood’s command was so out of whack, it cost him his spot in the rotation. He walked 95 batters, destroying the Cubs’ franchise record with a walk rate of 8.2 per nine innings.
In his four relief appearances this season, Chatwood is still struggling with his command. He has a 6.00 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP through six innings.
How long will he last in his start?
“More than you think,” Maddon said. “He really believes he can throw 75-plus pitches, which I don’t doubt. It’s just a matter of how tough the outs are. If the outs are tough, if he has to work too hard, it could be different. But if he keeps throwing like he has been throwing, then it’s reasonable to expect at least 80 pitches.”
After Chatwood on Sunday, left-hander Jose Quintana is expected to start Tuesday at Wrigley against the Dodgers.
Pitcher progress reports
Left-hander Jon Lester, who left in the third inning of the Cubs’ home opener April 8 with a tight left hamstring, continues to progress well. He’s expected to throw in a simulated game soon, the Cubs said.
Meanwhile, reliever Mike Montgomery, who’s recovering from a strained left lat, threw a bullpen session Friday at Wrigley. He’s expected to make a minor-league start early next week.
Montgomery, whose rehab assignment was delayed because of the birth of his child, pitched in a game for Class A South Bend on Wednesday, throwing 27 pitches to seven batters over two innings.