Cubs: Joe Maddon wants Tsuyoshi Wada to hit the reset button


Cubs: Joe Maddon wants Tsuyoshi Wada to hit the reset button

Tsuyoshi Wada knows he’s put himself in a tough position in the Cubs starting rotation after another rough, short outing.

The left-hander was yanked from the Cubs’ 6-3 win over Cincinnati Thursday after allowing a leadoff home run in the fourth inning, giving him back-to-back abbreviated starts with little success in them. Manager Joe Maddon said after Thursday’s game he hasn’t yet thought about dropping Wada from the rotation, but if 34-year-old doesn’t get the message, he very well could lose his spot.

The message Maddon will deliver to Wada on Friday: Be more assertive and trust your stuff.

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“That’s why he’s here in the first place,” Maddon said. “A guy like that that doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, you need to trust what you’re doing out there."

Wada’s fastball velocity has dropped about one mile per hour since he made his season debut May 20 in San Diego, though he said there’s nothing wrong with his arm. The feeling Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero have is it’s all mental at this point.

“He needs to not give that much credit to the hitters,” Montero said. “It feels like he’s giving them too much credit and he falls behind … He needs to pitch to more contract.”

Montero said he saw Wada trying to make perfect pitches in 0-0 counts over his three innings Thursday, in which he allowed three runs on four hits with two walks. He gave up a two-run triple to Reds starter Michael Lorenzen and a solo home run to light-hitting outfielder Chris Dominguez, the later of which knocked him out of the game in favor of Travis Wood, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

The early results for Wada were solid for a No. 5 starter: A 2.30 ERA on 10 hits, five walks and 19 strikeouts over his first three starts covering 15 2/3 innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts for the Cubs last year, so the club has seen him succeed before.

Maddon feels like if Wada can get back to being more “primal” in term of his aggression, and re-gain the confidence that he can pitch well in the majors, he’ll be fine. But with two former starters in the bullpen in Wood and Edwin Jackson, there’s no shortage of options with the Cubs right now to replace him if he can’t turn things around.

“I don’t make those kind of decisions,” Wada said through a translator. “But if you look at the results it could be happening.” 


When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.