Cubs starter Jason Hammel struggled during his outing in a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday, yielding three earned runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings, but the right-hander was upset with manager Joe Maddon for pulling him so early. As a result, Hammel and Maddon had a closed-door meeting after the game, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind. I barely threw 40 pitches,” said Hammel, who tossed 39 pitches and was a victim of a quick hook at times last year. “It was a side day for me pretty much.”
Maddon, who also managed Hammel in Tampa Bay, stated after the meeting, “Of course he didn’t like what I told him, but I had to tell him. He was not happy with me taking him out that early.”
Saturday’s start was the second poor one in a row for Hammel, who allowed 10 runs (six earned) on 10 hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings of an 11-4 loss to the Rockies last Sunday. Hammel had previously gone three straight starts (20 innings) without giving up a run, though, and has produced quality results for the Cubs this season. The 33-year-old has compiled a 3.21 ERA, 7.52 K/9, 2.88 BB/9 and 44 percent ground-ball rate in 137 2/3 frames, but his future in Chicago doesn’t seem secure, as Wittenmyer notes.
The Cubs have four strong bets to occupy rotation spots next season in Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and John Lackey, and recent acquisition Mike Montgomery could jockey for position behind them.
Regarding Montgomery, Maddon said Friday (via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago), “I think he is a major league starter, regardless of what happens tonight. This guy has the ability to be a solid major-league starter based on his strength level, his delivery, the variety of pitches that he throws. The strike-throwing ability is exceptional. He’s got all those different things going on.”
Montgomery ended up surrendering three earned runs, six hits and four walks against five strikeouts Friday, so it was merely a mediocre performance. Nevertheless, he seems to have Maddon’s confidence, and the lefty’s presence could help push Hammel out of Chicago after the season.
Hammel will not reach the 200-inning mark necessary for his $12MM option for 2017 to automatically vest. Thus, it will become a club option and leave the Cubs to decide after the season whether to exercise it or buy Hammel out for $2MM. Given that Hammel has been a more-than-capable starter in recent years, he should have trade value – particularly during a winter set to feature few appealing choices in free agency. The Cubs, therefore, could pick up Hammel’s reasonably priced option and shop him around the majors, writes Wittenmyer.
Hammel is in the midst of his second stint with the Cubs, who signed him to a one-year contract entering the 2014 season and then sent him and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland in a July deal that brought shortstop Addison Russell to Chicago. Hammel subsequently returned to the Windy City in free agency the next winter. In 417 innings with the Cubs, Hammel has logged a 3.32 ERA, 8.44 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9.