For starters, at least Cubs’ Tyler Chatwood didn’t get booed after a bad day on the mound
Chatwood pitched and, in his third start of camp, got knocked around. Ian Happ tagged him for a three-run homer. Willson Contreras crushed a Chatwood fastball high into the bleachers in left-center.
After his first start in an intrasquad scrimmage at Cubs preseason camp, right-hander Tyler Chatwood described how strange it was to hop up the dugout steps at Wrigley Field and be greeted by the sound of . . . nothing.
Since then, fake crowd noise has been added to the daily atmosphere in preparation for Marquee Sports Network’s telecasts. It’s all cheering, no booing.
Chatwood could use a few cheers in 2020, a crucial season for him in which he’ll try to get back on track as a big-league starter. He went off the rails in 2018, leading the majors in walks despite starting only 20 games, and regained some usefulness — mostly out of the bullpen — in 2019. He’s in the rotation again, which is why the Cubs gave him a tall stack of free-agent dollars in the first place.
‘‘He’s earned it,’’ manager David Ross said.
Earned a starting role or — because there’s no one else around to fill one — fallen back into it?
Either way, it’s his time (again).
‘‘I have a ton of confidence in [Chatwood],’’ Ross said. ‘‘I’m excited about the season he has ahead of him. I feel like he has something to prove. I think he feels that way.’’
Indeed, Chatwood does. But he wouldn’t have heard many cheers Wednesday if it had been a typical game day under normal circumstances — and he might have heard some boos. Chatwood got knocked around in his third start of camp.
Ian Happ tagged him for a three-run home run. Willson Contreras crushed a fastball high into the bleachers in left-center — his team-high fourth homer of camp — flipped his bat dramatically, then circled the bases as Chatwood watched him and smiled.
It was a hit parade against right-hander Alec Mills, the other starter, too. With left-hander Jose Quintana yet to begin throwing again after cutting his thumb of his pitching hand in a freak accident, the rotation continues to look shaky.
What says fun like low-fiving with feet?
With high-fives, handshakes and the like off-limits this season, the Cubs need to find ways to have fun on the field, stay connected and celebrate big moments.
Take homers, for instance. After reserve catcher Josh Phegley went deep against Mills, he crossed the plate and found a friendly foot belonging to David Bote waiting for him. Phegley and outfield prospect Brennen Davis did some foot-tapping, too.
It was an all-out foot fest after Happ’s homer, with Steven Souza Jr., Victor Caratini, Kyle Schwarber and catching prospect Miguel Amaya all joining Happ in a spirited dance of the ‘‘toe-key pokey.’’ Or whatever they’re calling it.
This and that
Outfielder Souza, who missed the entire 2019 season after blowing out his left knee, seems to be running very well. He stole a base and made a terrific diving catch in the field, after which he got up, pumped his fist and waved at the nonexistent crowd in the bleachers.
• Third-base prospect Christopher Morel, one of four taxi-squad players the Cubs brought in from South Bend, Indiana, for the scrimmage, had a fine day for a guy without a name or number on the back of his jersey. After doubling into the left-field gap against Mills, Morel made a good read and scored on a soft liner by Kris Bryant that fell in for a hit.
• Assistant home clubhouse manager Danny Mueller played a half-inning in left field as a gag. Fortunately for all involved, he got out of there without having to make a play.