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'About the upside here': Why Giants are betting on Chatwood

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Tyler Chatwood is from California, spent most of his career in the NL West and has pitched very well at Oracle Park over the years, so there were a lot of good reasons for the veteran right-hander to choose the Giants as his next team after he was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays. Chatwood found another one as he looked around. 

"Obviously they're the best team in baseball right now," Chatwood said on Wednesday morning. "Who doesn't want to go play for that?"

The Giants added Chatwood to their bullpen mix on Tuesday, and on the surface perhaps it was more difficult to figure out what the team saw that led to Chatwood replacing Jay Jackson. He had a 5.46 ERA in Toronto and was DFA'd in late July, but the peripheral numbers are promising, and the organization's plan for Chatwood brings even more hope.

As he spoke to reporters before the series finale against the Mets, Chatwood sounded a lot like the veterans who have succeeded here after having issues elsewhere. He said he got away from his strengths in Toronto, adding that the Giants are "not trying to change who I am as a pitcher." Chatwood views himself as a two-seam/cutter guy, but the trend these days is often to throw four-seamers up in the zone. 

"Early in the year, I was just pounding two-seams, ripping cutters, getting ahead and attacking. And then I was kind of chasing a four-seam, which I'm not very good at," he said. "I don't feel like that's one of my strengths and I kind of got away from my strengths."

 

Chatwood's two-seamer still averages 95 mph and opponents only hit .235 against it in Toronto. His cutter was hit at a .152 clip, but his straight fastball was getting crushed. Chatwood threw his four-seamer about nine percent of the time and opponents were batting .455 against it. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him become essentially a two-pitch guy in San Francisco, as Kevin Gausman has done. 

Chatwood initially joined Triple-A Sacramento and said his first step was throwing a bullpen session with pitching coach Brian Bannister, who has helped turn a lot of the current roster's veterans around. 

"That's the first time I've felt right in a while," Chatwood said of the session.

The 31-year-old made just four Triple-A appearances before the Giants decided to take a look. Chatwood had struck out 32 batters in 28 innings with Toronto but also walked 20, but manager Gabe Kapler said his command was much better in those minor league tuneups. 

"He threw strikes in Sac. I don't think it's any secret that the key to Chatty's success is always going to be about his ability to be and stay in the zone," Kapler said. "The stuff is nasty. We have some other pitchers that really can rely on stuff in the zone and I think Chatty really falls into that category as well."

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Chatwood has a 2.04 career ERA at Oracle Park and threw his only career shutout here in 2017 while with the Colorado Rockies. Some current Giants were on that roster, and Kapler said he got strong reviews from veterans in the clubhouse, who called Chatwood an "uncomfortable" pitcher to face. The Giants are hoping that's still the case.

"It's about the upside here," Kapler said. 

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