Cubs breathe a sigh of relief with Jason Heyward news

Cubs breathe a sigh of relief with Jason Heyward news

SAN FRANCISCO – Jason Heyward watched the replay of his dazzling catch and understood what had been at stake, appreciating that he somehow avoided the worst-case scenarios after crashing headfirst into AT&T Park’s right-center field wall on Friday night.  

The Cubs described Heyward’s injury as only a contusion on his right side in the rib area after Saturday’s MRI didn’t reveal any major structural damage. The Cubs are on a three-to-five-days timeline of rest for Heyward and believe this won’t force him onto the disabled list.  

“I’m lucky,” Heyward said. “Very, very lucky. Like I said, God looked out for me on that one. Just really fortunate that I was able to get up and walk off the field.” 

With Heyward sidelined, the Cubs activated outfielder Matt Szczur from the disabled list, designated reliever Neil Ramirez for assignment and started Ben Zobrist in right field against the San Francisco Giants. 

The Cubs breathed a sigh of relief, thinking they will only have to rotate players for a few days in right field and not find a long-term replacement for a three-time Gold Glove winner in the first season of an eight-year, $184 million contract.

“Very encouraging,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When something like that happens, you just got to wait to hear the word. All I know is it’s a great play. 

“It was an extreme angle that he had to run off. From the distance he covered, the angle that he created, extending his body, everything, it’s just an incredible play.”

How many defenders would have the instincts, athleticism, presence of mind and desire to make that play? 

Heyward tracked down Jake Arrieta’s third pitch in the right-center field gap, his momentum driving his left shoulder into the wall and taking away what might have been an inside-the-park home run for San Francisco leadoff guy Denard Span. It helped set the tone for an 8-1 victory over the first-place Giants.

“That’s up there,” Heyward said, in terms of ranking catches in a career defined by defensive excellence. “That’s one of my favorites in my life, for sure.

“I know that was the first play of the bottom of the first, but we’re playing here in San Francisco with these fans, this crowd, two good teams going at it. That can be a big momentum swing if that ball gets down.”

The Cubs can afford to be patient with Heyward’s offensive game (one homer, .611 OPS) because he helps the team win in so many different ways. Losing Heyward for an extended period of time would have left a huge hole in the roster after Kyle Schwarber wrecked his left knee during an outfield collision in early April. 

“I listen to my body, always, regardless of what the doctor’s telling me,” Heyward said. “I got to be smart, because it is May. We’re not in September right now. We’re working towards that, but this is not the time to push anything like that, especially when you got obliques and stuff like that involved.”

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: