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Chatwood excited to anchor Cubs' elite rotation

Cutter refinement explains setback vs. KC; first fundamentals, then flair for Baez
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- On Sunday, Tyler Chatwood couldn't get a good feel for his cutter, but it's not going to affect his status with the Cubs. He's the fifth starter on what may be the best rotation the Cubs have ever had.

Manager Joe Maddon has had more than a few teams that didn't have a good fourth starter, let alone a No. 5 like Chatwood.

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MESA, Ariz. -- On Sunday, Tyler Chatwood couldn't get a good feel for his cutter, but it's not going to affect his status with the Cubs. He's the fifth starter on what may be the best rotation the Cubs have ever had.

Manager Joe Maddon has had more than a few teams that didn't have a good fourth starter, let alone a No. 5 like Chatwood.

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"Some teams maybe have three if they're lucky, and if you've got four, you're happy," Maddon said. "Every time you go in the dugout and you look out there and say, 'Who's got the advantage on the mound?' Then you analyze your chances and the chances you may have to take during the course of the game based on advantage or disadvantage.

"This guy [Chatwood], heads up. What you saw the other day was not a fluke, and you'll see more of that. He's very driven and motivated right now. He's listed as a fifth starter, but he's one of five. This guy could pitch in every rotation in the big leagues. It's just a matter of where you want to spot him, his stuff is that good."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

What Chatwood did in his last start Tuesday was strike out nine Giants over five scoreless innings, giving up one hit. Sunday was a different story. He served up seven hits over five innings and struck out six in the Cubs' 11-9 loss to the Royals. It was a split-squad game, and the other half of the team didn't do well either, losing 11-4 to the Indians in Las Vegas.

"Obviously, you want to pitch good," Chatwood said. "I gave up a home run in the first on a bad cutter. I tried to work on that to righties, and that was the only pitch I got hurt on. I was trying to prove a point that I could find it, but obviously I didn't do that. I felt my curveball, changeup were pretty sharp. I was trying to get that feel back for that cutter."

If this was a regular-season game, Chatwood would've made the adjustment to another pitch. But because it's Spring Training, he kept trying to get a feel for the cutter.

"This late in spring, you want to get results," he said. "It's one of those things, you go back, watch it and learn off it and get ready for the next one."

He's got some good folks to lean on. Chatwood will follow Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana in the rotation this season.

"You can pick those guys' brains and watch how they go about it and watch their bullpens," Chatwood said. "It's pretty impressive to see. The neat part is none of us are the same pitcher. We all have different strengths, so we can pick each other's brains to see what they do to maybe get better. It's been fun, but I'm excited to get going in the season."

Spring Training information

Javy working on routine

Javier Baez and infield coach Brian Butterfield are focused on making the routine plays, which should allow the infielder the freedom to perform his acrobatic stunts.

"[Baez] and 'Butter' have a good pregame drill," Maddon said. "It's part of [Baez's] everyday method now -- it's to not miss one ground ball pregame. He's so good -- guys like that are so good that they may get in bad habits by using their hands and not their feet. Butter is pounding his feet into him."

This will be Baez's and shortstop Addison Russell's third year together.

"They'll know what the other guy is thinking all the time, they'll know where the feet need to be, where the other guy is covering," Maddon said. "I always think about being on a basketball court and moving on the court and how one guy knows the positioning of the other guy."

Video: CHC@ARI: Baez reaches to make terrific stop on liner

Injury updates

• Reliever Anthony Bass (strained right lat) hopes to see game action on Monday.

• Reliever Pedro Strop, who has been slowed because of a tender left calf, threw a bullpen session on Friday and needs to have a live batting practice session before he can get into a game.

Camp battle

There's one spot open in the Cubs' bullpen, and one candidate is right-hander Eddie Butler, who started on Saturday against the Indians. Butler, who is out of options, was charged with three runs on two hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings.

"Overall, I thought Eddie threw really well," Maddon said.

Up next

The Cubs travel to Goodyear, Ariz., on Monday for an 8:05 CT night game against the Reds. Jon Lester is scheduled to start. This will be the left-hander's fourth Cactus League start, but he also has one start in a Minor League game. So far, he's struck out nine over 9 1/3 innings in Cactus League play.

On the club's day off Tuesday, Hendricks will start in a Minor League game at the Cubs' complex, and Darvish will face his former team, the Rangers, on Wednesday in Surprise.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Tyler Chatwood