PITTSBURGH – The delicate business relationship between the Cubs and Aroldis Chapman involved the superstar closer’s off-the-field baggage; rocky introduction to Chicago; language barrier; personal assistant becoming an intermediary with the coaching staff; looming free agency; and a preference to pitch one clean inning at a time.
It worked out in the end, with Chapman getting a championship ring and a record-setting, five-year, $86 million deal with the New York Yankees – after throwing 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the World Series.
But where manager Joe Maddon once viewed Chapman’s 100-mph fastball as a shiny new toy, the manager has been more cautious with Wade Davis, the All-Star closer who has gone 29-for-29 in save chances so far in a Cubs uniform/during his free-agent season.
Don’t look for Maddon to push the accelerator now and start using Davis for four-out saves, even as the Cubs begin a stretch on Friday at Wrigley Field where they will play the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals 14 times in 19 games and can end the National League Central race.
“I’m still not ready to do that yet,” Maddon said before Thursday’s 8-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “If we get to that point, I would talk to him about it. I can’t tell you that he’s a bad candidate (for it). It’s just based on (how) normally guys that are able to do that are more pitch-efficient.
“Four outs costing you 30, 35 pitches – sometimes you run into trouble in that 30th to 35th pitch. Even at 25-plus, I’m always up against it about bad things happening for a short relief pitcher.
“So, listen, I would not run away from it. But I don’t think it’s time yet. And if we were going to do it, I would talk to him about it in advance.”
Would the Davis rules change in October?
“I don’t want to assume anything until I talk to him,” Maddon said.
Maybe the Cubs have learned from their miscommunications with Chapman and the World Series fallout. Theo Epstein’s front office purposely built a bigger and better bullpen after a championship team played into early November. Maddon has also known Davis since he came up as a starter with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Davis – who’s 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 23 career postseason appearances – worked multiple innings six times during the playoffs as the Kansas City Royals won back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015.
“I’ve always gotten stronger later in the year and deeper into the season,” said Davis, who notched the final out in the 2015 World Series. “So hopefully that trend keeps going.”