Drew Smyly leverages stability with the Cubs, showing consistency

On a new team, Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly may not be so bold about making adjustments in spring training.

“And to be honest, some of the changes I probably didn't know about,” Smyly told the Sun-Times. “The team might not even tell me, or they might not know.”

Back with the Cubs, Smyly capitalized on the stability he had lost throughout the years of his journeyman career.

Smily's starting Friday, as he limited the Twins to two runs in six innings, extending his strong start to the season and putting the Cubs in position to beat the Twins 6-2. Since his first wavy start in Cincinnati (when he gave up six runs in a 42/3 innings), he posted a 2.04 ERA.

“I preach it to younger people, all I've tried to do my whole career is be consistent,” said Smyly. “This is much easier said than done. This is a tough, tiring and demanding league. Playing so many games, you're going to have ups and downs, you're going to have bad games. But I just want to be as consistent as possible.”

Now that he has a consistent multi-year contract with the Cubs and years back-to-back working with their pitching coach, does he think he can reach another level of performance?

“I hope so,” he said.

A reunion between Smyly and the Cubs isn't guaranteed towards the end of the season.

He praised the Cubs, who he also had with in 2018 while he was rehabing from Tommy John surgery. And the team has hit back. But after Smyly rejected the option of a 2023 contract together, as expected, nearly two months passed before he signed a two-year, $19 million deal to stay in Chicago.

“It was great,” Smyly said of working with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and his staff again. “I like Tommy. You don't start over, you just take back to where we were last year. They know me very well, I know them very well. So it's just an open line of communication. They know what I need, what makes me tick.”

Twice training this spring, the Cubs marked a slippage in his throwing motion, comparing his arm position to the best version of himself last year. They have the right data to identify the differences and the relationships to bring them to light.

“That's one of the big things I love about the Cubs,” said Smyly, “is they're not pushy about anything, but they're really good at it, to make sure you don't go down the wrong path. ”

The Cubs also have Smyly's confidence, which is needed to make adjustments that will disrupt the focus of its normal competition mode in the last few weeks of spring.

“That's the way he simplifies it,” Smyly said of Hottovy, “the way he can figure out some of the little details – it's not reinventing the way I throw a baseball, but little notes or little drills he can give me that re-engage my mechanics.”

Smyly has played for five different teams in the last five seasons. The last team he spent several seasons with was Tampa Bay (2014-2016). Still, Smyly entered Friday with a career 4.06 ERA, even while battling years of injuries.

“It's refreshing to have a veteran guy who can go out there and say, ‘This is who I am, this is what I'm going to do,' said Hottovy. “… And when you simplify things that far, you can see a lot more. You can read bat swings, you can read reactions to how the game is going and things like that.

Smyly showed just that against the Twins on Friday. He sticks to his usual iteration of the script, leaning on his curve ball and mixing up his weight. He held the Twins up to four hits.

It's not flashy. It's consistent.