Cubs’ Drew Smyly adjusts arm path in spring training: ‘Fastball had way more carry’

Smyly’s final line wasn’t pretty after allowing three runs in two-plus innings against the Rockies on Sunday, but he was focused on a different set of results.

SHARE Cubs’ Drew Smyly adjusts arm path in spring training: ‘Fastball had way more carry’
Cubs lefty Drew Smyly identified a mechanical adjustment to make between starts.

Cubs lefty Drew Smyly identified a mechanical adjustment to make between starts.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly was paying attention to swing-and-misses and pop-ups. His final line wasn’t pretty after allowing three runs in two-plus innings against the Rockies on Sunday. But the more important numbers to him, in his second start of spring training, were the data on his fastball and cutter.

“This time of year, it’s like, yeah, you never want to give up hits, or especially homers, or get hit hard,” he said after his part in the Cubs’ 6-5 victory against the Rockies, “but it’s more just about trying to fine-tune my strengths, get my pitches the best I can going into the season.”

After Smyly’s last start, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy identified a slight change in Smyly’s arm slot compared to last year. As he brought the ball up, he was getting longer than usual, Smyly said. That led to him getting around the ball, losing the sharpness of his pitches and separation between his cutter and fastball.

“I could tell instantly my fastball had way more carry,” Smyly said of his start Sunday. “I got quite a few swing-and-misses on it. The cutter was way more consistent and sharp and angled. And that’s where I wanted it.”

Smyly generated five whiffs on his sinker, according to Statcast, and it was his put-away pitch for both of his strikeouts. He only threw 11 curveballs.

“My first curveball of the day,’’ Smyly said, ‘‘I yanked it and middle-middle to Kris [Bryant], and he put a good swing on it.”

It was Bryant’s first spring-training game against the Cubs since they traded him midseason in 2021. The Rockies played the Cubs at Sloan Park last year, and Bryant had the road game off.

In Bryant’s first at-bat, Smyly threw that second-pitch curveball inside. Bryant turned on it and launched the ball down the line to the top of Salt River Fields’ left-field berm.

Smyly allowed another solo home run when he came out for one batter in the third inning. To end a nine-pitch battle, Rockies left-handed hitter Ryan McMahon drove a fastball over the center-field fence.

“He hit that one really, really hard,” Smyly said. “But until that, I was getting swing-and-misses, and they were swinging underneath it, infield pop-ups. And that tells me my ball’s getting carry because they’re missing it on the bottom side of the barrel.”

Cubs 6, Rockies 5

• The Cubs won with a ninth-inning rally sparked by prospects. They had five hits in the inning, from Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis, Darius Hill, Andy Weber and Esteban Quiroz.

David Bote’s second-inning double was his eighth hit of spring training, tied for second-most in the majors.

• “The last combined no-hitter we had didn’t result real well after that,” Cubs manager David Ross quipped this week, referring to the no-hitter against the Dodgers in June 2021, which preceded an 11-game skid. But the franchise’s first spring-training no-hitter Friday against the Padres is part of a winning streak that stretched to five Sunday.

On deck: Cubs at Mariners, 2:10 p.m. Monday, Peoria, Marquee, Hayden Wesneski vs. Luis Castillo.

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