Drew Smyly pinpointed this weekend’s series against the Reds on his calendar as he neared his return to the mound for the Cubs.
“I really wanted to start this weekend and not next week in Cincy just to experience that home crowd at Wrigley one more time,” Smyly said. “The fans and the energy here are just unmatched.
One more time?
Saturday was Smyly’s last start of 2022, but whether it’s his last at Wrigley as a Cub entirely is up for debate as we near the offseason.
“I mean, I hope so,” Smyly said of whether he thinks he’ll be back in 2023. “It’s up in the air. It's what the Cubs want to do. I hope they see me in their plans.
“I would love to come back. Like I said all season, playing games here and putting on this uniform is really special. And whether I come back or not, it's just going to be a season that I'll remember and I'm really proud to put on this uniform.”
Smyly’s right about his status being up in the air. He has a $10 million mutual option for 2023.
The veteran lefty has been one of the Cubs’ most consistent starters when he’s been able to take the ball. In 22 starts, he’s gone 7-8 with a 3.47 ERA in 106 1/3 innings.
Smyly, who pitched Saturday for the first time since Sept. 14 after battling shoulder fatigue, missed five weeks before the All-Star break with a right oblique strain.
“He's been good when on the field, right?” manager David Ross said. “Derek Lowe used to tell me as a teammate, ‘When healthy.’ When he's been healthy, he’s been really good.
“I think that's something he takes a lot of pride in and wants to be better at, being able to make every start,” Ross added of Smyly. “I know that's something he said and wants to be that guy. He has been extremely reliable when he's taking the ball for us.”
Especially in the second half. Smyly, including his three innings Saturday, turned in a 2.83 ERA in 11 starts post-break, including a 2.28 ERA in nine starts since August.
“Obviously, I would have liked to make more starts and throw more innings,” Smyly said. “It was a weird year from the beginning, with the short spring training and everybody kind of got off to a slow start.
“I feel like I was healthy, and I gave us a chance to win and had a pretty good second half.”
Smyly all season has praised the atmosphere and culture around the Cubs, including how much of a joy it is to show up at the ballpark every day.
“That's something for me being around a lot of teams, I don't take that for granted,” he said. “From April to all the way till the end of September, you look forward to showing up every day and being around those guys.”
Whether he gets to experience it again starting next April is to be determined.
“I feel good about the season I had, and I know I can help this team win in the future, so we'll see,” Smyly said. “But it's doesn't matter what I think. It's up to them.”
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