Tyler Chatwood's Task: Show Consistency

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MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- After losing his rotation spot late last July, Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood embarked on a nomadic pitching journey.

Chatwood was relegated to the bullpen, save for one spot start in August that went poorly. He didn't pitch after Sept. 8 as the Cubs were locked in a National League Central race that they eventually lost to the Brewers. 

What role Chatwood assume in 2019 remains up in the air. He doesn't have a rotation spot, and his effectiveness out of the bullpen would be anyone's guess at this point.

Chatwood will make his second appearance of the spring when the Cubs face the Diamondbacks on Friday afternoon. Left-hander Jose Quintana will start, while Chatwood will work in later.

The Cubs are planning to stretch Chatwood out as a starter in spring training, then go from there.

"We will let him go this spring and let him get his innings in," manager Joe Maddon said. "If we can harness his stuff, it is really high-end movement."

In the second season of a three-year, $38-million deal, Chatwood has adjusted his mechanics after a disastrous 2018 in which he posted a 5.30 ERA and issued an MLB-high 95 walks while losing his command altogether.

"The thing I am working on is getting a rhythm with my hands," Chatwood said. "My takeaway (ball out of his hand in delivery) was bad last year. Until this the end of the season, I didn't really realize that. I worked hard on the delivery this winter. I felt good and have a little more rhythm with me now."

Chatwood is hoping to relax more in 2019 after facing intense scrutiny last season. He's not the only Cub to sign a lucrative deal in recent seasons only to disappoint initially. Left-hander Jon Lester had a poor April in 2015, then found his strong form. Outfielder Jason Heyward is the prime example, as he hit just .230 with a .631 OPS in 2016 after signing an eight-year, $184-million deal.

With time to reflect, Lester and Heyward both admitted they pressed and tried too hard to live up to their contracts in their first seasons in Chicago. The Cubs hope a similar effect will play out for Chatwood. 

Maddon has already noticed a difference in how Chatwood has looked early in spring training.

"He has simplified his delivery," Maddon said. "I like his new finish. He has not been falling off in his delivery. He has had a really good line from the rubber to home plate. He has been more smooth in with his pitches. His bottom half looked really good in his finish on Sunday."

The Cubs' five starters are locked in, but injury and attrition often create opportunities throughout a season. The Cubs have also been known to skip starts here and there to keep rotation members fresh. So the possibility exists for Chatwood to be a quasi-sixth starter.

But if that's to be an option, it's a must for him to show consistency.

"When you get caught up in mechanics and delivery, sometimes a pitcher forgets about competing," Maddon said. "You should work hard on the nuggets getting ready to play. When you get on the field, you need to just be competing to beat the guy in the other uniform.

"We are certainly keeping an open mind with everything for Tyler. We never want to squash any incentive for him. We want him to pitch as well as he can to make us think in other directions."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.