CHICAGO – Many Cubs fans may have forgotten that Drew Smyly is part of the team.
Smyly, who turns 29 next week, is a left-handed pitcher the Cubs signed over the winter as he was in the middle stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery.
He is on the 60-day disabled list but is making significant progress and could factor into the pitching staff later this season.
Smyly threw live batting practice Friday morning at Wrigley Field. Watching were the Cubs’ front office and manager Joe Maddon.
Everybody seemed happy.
“He put a smile on our face,” Maddon said. “He was very good. I was really impressed with the delivery, the looseness of the arm, the command of his pitches, the carry on his pitches. Everything was like right on. There was nothing to lament. That was a great first time back for us to watch. It’s great to build off of. I’m certain he feels great right now. He was good, very good.”
This was Smyly’s second session of live batting practice but the first at Wrigley Field and in front of all the decision-makers.
“It’s fun to show them that I can actually play baseball,” he said. “Keep building up. Keep facing some competition. Right now, it’s exciting because it’s been a long road of not much competition, not much throwing. I’ve built up my bullpens, and I’m now facing hitters. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s exciting for me to have a hitter in the box and get my adrenaline rushing a little bit more.
“I’ve had a big dose of back fields. The stands and the backdrop added to adrenaline.”
Smyly has a lifetime record of 31-27 with a 3.74 ERA in 156 games (85 starts) over parts of five seasons with Detroit, Tampa Bay and Seattle. The Cubs signed him to a two-year deal, looking at the long term.
For the short term, Smyly said he’d likely throw more live batting practice here before heading to Arizona for simulated games. It’s possible he could go out on a minor league rehab stint in early July and spend most of the month doing that.
Who’s the greatest? Kris Bryant went 3 for 4 (three singles) with a run scored in his first big-league game as a leadoff man. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has laid claim to being the greatest leadoff hitter of all time for his exploits during stints at the top spot. Has that changed?
“Riz did a really good job,” Bryant said. “We’ll see if [Maddon] gives me a couple more games. Anthony has that title for a little while.”
Bryant said he wasn’t pleased with his recent performance, but he has a line of .301/.406/.514 with eight homers. He extended a hitting streak to eight games, during which he is 13 for 31 (.419).
Russell returns: Shortstop Addison Russell saw his first game action since Sunday when he came on as part of a double switch in the eighth inning. Russell has been nursing a sprained middle finger on his left hand.