After not missing a single spot in his warmup Sunday, Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood’s first pitch went past catcher Willson Contreras and hit the brick wall behind home plate. Then he threw three more balls to walk the first batter he faced.
Boos came from the fans at Wrigley Field, and the all-too-familiar start was enough to have many thinking, ‘‘Here we go again.’’
But then something clicked.
One day after right-hander Yu Darvish gave up two home runs in the Cubs’ first loss in a week, Chatwood got them back on track heading into their day off Monday. He allowed only one more walk and pitched six scoreless innings in his first start of the season.
‘‘That was pretty spectacular,’’ manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs’ 2-1 victory against the Diamondbacks. ‘‘The command, the stuff, the ease at which he was throwing it, that was pretty outstanding. . . . That’s not a fluke. He’s capable of doing that kind of stuff.’’
Chatwood, who allowed only two hits and struck out three, exceeded everyone’s expectations. That included those of the Cubs, who recalled right-hander Alec Mills from Class AAA Iowa before the game to back up Chatwood, though he ultimately wasn’t used.
After Chatwood’s outing was over, his teammates took turns hugging him in the dugout. Contreras gave him two high-fives before they embraced.
‘‘Anytime someone struggles, it’s always good to see them have success,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘ ‘Chat’ kind of has the short end now with his role, and he’s accepted it. And he’s been ready to pitch and has had a great attitude ever since he stepped in last year.’’
The Cubs signed Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million contract in December 2017 to be a member of their rotation. But he struggled with his command last season and lost his starting role in July.
Chatwood had made four relief appearances before starting against the Diamondbacks. Adjusting to the bullpen hasn’t been easy, but Chatwood said losing his starting role has given him a new perspective.
‘‘It’s not fun,’’ said Chatwood, who hadn’t pitched more than three innings this season before Sunday. ‘‘But it kind of made me not take it for granted. Everything I do now, there’s a purpose to it; there’s a reason why I’m doing it. . . . I feel like I’m on the right path.’’
Though Chatwood’s performance was impressive, it won’t be enough to get him back in the rotation, especially given that left-hander Jon Lester (strained hamstring) is progressing well. One day after Lester threw three innings in a simulated game, Maddon said he was ‘‘doing well’’ and might return Thursday against the Dodgers.
Regardless, Chatwood said his strong outing reinforced his confidence in himself.
‘‘I know what I’m capable of doing,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s what I’ve done in the past: throw a lot of fastball sinkers, try to get quick contact and go deep in the game. I was very efficient today, which was nice.’’