Posted on August 28, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Outside of a few injuries, it’s been smooth sailing for the Chicago Cubs, who have been relatively drama free in 2016. Well, here’s comes a little bit of drama, as pitcher Jason Hammel openly expressed his displeasure with manager Joe Maddon after Maddon pulled Hammel from Saturday’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers after just 2.1 innings. Hammel would end up taking the loss as the Cubs fell to the Dodgers 3-2.
“I didn’t even pitch today,” Hammel said when asked to breakdown his outing. “I barely threw even 40 pitches, so it’s a side day today.” Hammel is a ground ball pitcher, but gave up several fly balls early in his outing. He began to coax more ground balls by the end of his outing, but it was not enough to convince Maddon to keep him in the game. “Two balls hit hard. Other than that, I feel like their hits found holes,” a frustrated Hammel said afterwards. When all was said and done, Hammel allowed three runs on five hits, including a home run to Corey Seager, over 2.1 innings.
Factoring into Maddon’s decision to give Hammel the early hook may have been Hammel’s struggles in his last start. Against the Colorado Rockies on August 21, Hammel allowed six runs on 10 hits, lasting just 3.1 innings. Of course, that start came at Coors Field. Also, Hammel covered a total of 20 innings without allowing a run in his three prior starts.
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After Saturday’s game, Maddon explained his reasoning for taking Hammel out so early in the game. “I didn’t see it happening for ‘Hammer’ today, and that’s cool, because he didn’t throw that many pitches, so he’ll be well-rested for his next start.” Maddon also mentioned that he wanted to get rookie Rob Zastryzny into a game in a meaningful situation. Zastryzny followed Hammel on Saturday for 3.2 innings, allowing just one hit. He also pitched in relief in Hammel’s last start in Colorado. The left-handed rookie has now thrown 7.1 innings with the Cubs without allowing a run.
Maddon also acknowledged that Hammel was unhappy with him. “He was not happy with me taking him out that early, and I can understand why, because it’s happened in the past,” Maddon said. “I just didn’t see the game straightening out. Watching him one time through [the order], it looked like they were on him a little bit.” The Cubs skipper is referring to several occasions late last season when Hammel was pulled early from games, although that was when the Cubs were chasing a playoff spot and not comfortably atop their division as they are right now.
Hammel requested a meeting with Maddon after the game, but neither gave the media details about what was said. “That’s a conversation for me and him,” Hammel said. “There is no reason that has to be in the papers. It’s a professional way of looking at it.”
What may be more important than Saturday’s abbreviated start is how Hammel and Maddon move on from it. If Maddon continues to lose trust in Hammel, it could mean a move to the bullpen for him when the playoffs start, possibly sooner. Of course, even if Hammel is moved to the bullpen, the Cubs will still need him to perform in important postseason games, and so his performance the rest of the regular season and how Maddon handles him will be interesting to watch.