Here are four takeaways from Cubs spring training Sunday:
1. Yu Darvish could start the season opener.
The Cubs rotation is lining up in a manner that could lead to Yu Darvish starting the March 26 opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Darvish will throw live batting practice Monday before making his Cactus League debut later this week. Jon Lester will face the Rockies on Tuesday, followed by Kyle Hendricks on Wednesday against the Royals.
The Cubs haven’t made a formal announcement about the rotation. The current plan is for starters to throw only one inning in their spring debuts, but pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Darvish — who had a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 81? innings in the second half last year — will pitch two innings in his debut.
Jose Quintana was scheduled to pitch live batting practice Sunday until he experienced flu-like symptoms.
“It’s really managing the workload early,” Hottovy said. “Each guy has a certain way they like to do that first game.”
Hottovy likes limiting his starters’ spring debuts to one inning so “we can easily build up from that point. We look at intensity increasing with volume.”
2. Tyler Chatwood clears his first hurdle.
Tyler Chatwood, who’s vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, was pleased after working out of a jam in the first inning in his spring debut.
“I feel really good,” Chatwood said after jamming Justin Turner and inducing AJ Pollock to ground into a double play. “My stuff’s exactly where I want it to be. I’ve just got to keep that muscle memory and stay in my routine, but I’m excited and ready to go.”
Chatwood, who lost his spot in the rotation in the middle of the 2018 season because of control issues, threw three consecutive balls to Mookie Betts before working the count full and retiring him on a fly to right.
“There’s still a lot of untapped potential, and I feel this is the best I’ve ever been,” Chatwood said.
3. Craig Kimbrel’s schedule allows the Cubs to look at more candidates.
One benefit of closer Craig Kimbrel working on his own schedule is it allows the Cubs to look at other relief candidates.
“We’ve got to get a good look at a lot of these guys to get them in games as much as we can,” Hottovy said. “Right now everyone is looking and feeling good, so we’ll keep that process.”
Kimbrel is scheduled to throw live batting practice Monday.
Meanwhile, the Cubs would welcome any contribution from Brandon Morrow after he suffered a right chest strain.
“Getting Brandon Morrow anytime in the year is beneficial for us, whether it’s opening day, mid-June or September,” Hottovy said. “Right now the process is just him getting comfortable and continuing his progression and knowing there will be bumps in the road.”
Morrow hasn’t pitched in a game since July 15, 2018, because of right forearm discomfort.
4. Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill warms to technology.
Trevor Megill, whom the Cubs selected from the Padres organization for $100,000, initially struggled with a suggestion after spending time in the Cubs pitching lab.
“I was kind of hard-headed when I came to the organization with my curve grip,” Megill said. “They showed me the spike curve, which they have everyone here on.
“The first week it sucked. I hated it. I kept going after it. Week 2 came around, and I felt more comfortable with it and I’m throwing it in live BP for strikes. I think it will be another pitch that will be an equalizer off my fastball.”
Megill — who threw three wild pitches in the fourth inning Sunday — hopes to join Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck as former Padres who found success after joining the Cubs and spending time in their lab.
Megill must stay with the Cubs for the entire 2020 season or be placed on waivers. Should he clear waivers, he must be offered back to the Padres for $50,000 and can be outrighted to the minors only if the Padres decline.
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