Maddon Moving Starters Around to Ready for Postseason

When I last looked at the Cubs’ potential rotation down the stretch, I had been under the impression that Mike Montgomery would be getting two starts. That was followed by the theory that Jon Lester and Jason Hammel would flip-flop in the order and everything else would be pretty much status quo. With Montgomery having already returned to his spot in the bullpen once again and the news that Kyle Hendricks is being pushed back to Monday, I felt it necessary to reexamine exactly how the string will play out for the starters.

Joe Maddon is making use of the final off-day of the season to get things solidified, which means pitching Jake Arrieta and Hammel in the first two games against the Cardinals and sending Lester to the mound for Sunday’s Wrigley Field finale. I should have known this was going to happen, though, as Lester has thus far started in five of the nine Cubs games I’ve attended (one each in Anaheim and Pittsburgh, three in Chicago). For what it’s worth, Arrieta has started three of the other four.

Even though Lester is moving, he’ll be throwing on five days rest due to the schedule. Hendricks will then go on Monday against the Pirates after an eight-day layoff, followed on Tuesday by what is expected to be a bullpen start. Rather than continue to write it all out this way, let’s just bullet-point what things should look like:

  • 9/23 – Arrieta
  • 9/24 – Hammel
  • 9/25 – Lester
  • 9/26 – Hendricks
  • 9/27 – Fullstaff
  • 9/28- Lackey
  • 9/29 – Arrieta
  • 9/30 – Hammel
  • 10/1 – Lester
  • 10/2 – Hendricks

While they’ve still made no official announcements — Lester himself was coy about his status as the NLDS Game 1 starter when he addressed the media Tuesday night — it appears obvious that it will indeed set up to be Lester and Hendricks going one, two. Not only are they going in that order at this point, but closing the season sets them up to go on relatively standard rest in those opening playoff games.

Because of the five-day break after the regular season, two gamedays, and an off-day, the Game 3 starter would be going on at least eight days of rest even if he pitched in that last game. In Arrieta’s case, the gap between starts would stretch to 11 days. Given his struggles with command, not to mention a recent dip in velocity, the additional time off could allow him to both recover and perhaps work on some mechanical flaws.

Lackey, then, would going on 13 days rest, which is deliciously apropos for a team to which so many bad-luck narratives have been ascribed over the years. Of course, that’s assuming the Cubs even need a Game 4 starter. Should they be forced to the brink, Lester would start Game 5 after a six-day layoff. But let’s not even worry about that coming to fruition.

Speaking of the playoffs, if any of you happen to reside in the Central Indiana area and would be interested in a communal Game 1 viewing party, I’m thinking of putting something together. All I’ve got to do is determine the general geographic location, then figure out whether people want family-friendly or big kids only. Stay tuned.

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