The Rundown: Full Javy, Full Monty

It slid across our collective field of vision, blotting out all else as it went. Predicted but not predictable, blinding in its beauty, the celestial event was like nothing we had beheld in nearly four decades. I’m speaking, of course, of Javy Baez scoring the winning run of Sunday’s thriller.

Truth be told, I was not wearing my protective eyewear when the whole thing went down. Given the overcast sky, I had pushed my Oakleys back to rest atop my back-turned hat in order that I could better take in the action from the distance of the bleachers. The sunglasses were nearly cast aside as I mimicked the call of “Safe!” after El Mago had breezed past the plate on that Michael Jackson tip.

Impossible to appreciate in real time, let alone at a distance, that slide was what LL Cool J would have referred to as “hot sex on a platter.” Not only did he begin it about 30 feet from home and end about 30 feet past, give or take 24 feet in either direction, but the way he popped up after was just…yeah. I mean, most cats can’t stand up like that when hitting a raised base.

Javy not only stuck the landing, he posed for a moment with his arms up like Kerri Strug at the Olympics. But don’t worry, his ankle is fine. Though perhaps not as blatant an example of his exuberant awesomeness as his no-look tag in the WBC, the slide was no less a perfect allegory for El Mago.

And now that our love affair with the flashy middle infielder who draws the ire of Cardinals and Pirates fans has been stoked to the point of spilling from bounds of the fire pit, perhaps it’s time to ask the question of how he fits into the shuffle once Addison Russell comes back. It’s easy to forget in light of what Javy’s doing that having Russell on the shelf actually makes it significantly easier to set the rest of the roster.

Once the regular shortstop returns, however, Joe Maddon needs to find a way to balance Russell and Baez while still finding time for Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist. Or at least Happ. Javy’s production dictates that he be in there every day, but the roster may demand otherwise. Unless, that is, we see Maddon reduce Zobrist’s time commensurate with his performance while also giving Russell plenty of rest down the stretch. That gives Baez the most consistent playing time of the group while keeping everyone fresh.

No go back and watch that slide a few dozen more times.

Montgomery plays his role

I don’t think there are too many hills I’m willing to die one, but one of them has been my belief that Mike Montgomery benefits the Cubs more as a reliever than he does as a member of the rotation. While the overall value of good starting pitcher is greater than that of a bullpen guy, I just don’t see Montgomery as being someone who’ll achieve equivalent success in both roles.

What I mean by that is I think he can be a decent starter, someone who can pitch near the middle or back of the rotation. On the other hand, he can be an elite reliever who also gives you the ability to fill in as needed. Case in point, the “injury” to Jon Lester that leaves the Cubs in need of a spot starter for a couple games.

And as Patrick Mooney pointed out, this could be another audition for a spot in next year’s rotation. Though John Lackey is pitching well and saying that retirement is no guarantee, common sense says this is probably his last go-round in Chicago. Likewise, Jake Arrieta’s excellent pitching of late will likely move him well out of the Cubs’ comfort zone as far as salary is concerned.

To that end, Montgomery seems like the easy answer when it comes to filling half of that void. Not only is he comfortable starting, but he’s super cheap. Though he just turned 28, the lefty isn’t arbitration eligible until 2019 and is under control for two more seasons beyond that. But the Cubs are in no hurry to define his role, nor should they be, as his flexibility enhances the value of his low salary.

Given their recent expenditures of prospect capital in acquiring Jose Quintana and Justin Wilson, another pair of low-cost lefty arms, the Cubs aren’t in much of a position to be active in the trade market this winter. But with nearly $32 million falling off the books from the expiring contracts of Lackey and Arrieta, not to mention the $14 million Miguel Montero earned this year, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will have a little money to spend in free agency.

To say that Montgomery is a fallback or fail-safe is perhaps a backhanded compliment, but that’s really what he’s best suited for. Should the Cubs find a way to flesh out the rotation with a pair of competent starters, at least one of whom I’d guess would be on a very short-term deal, Monty stays in the pen. Should they encounter obstacles in their arms race, the former Mariner starts regularly.

But enough about next year, Montgomery’s primary objective for the immediate future is to make a start Wednesday in Cincy and then likely Monday against the Pirates. Whether it’s an audition or an understudy role, he just needs to deliver the lines and make sure the show goes on.

More news and notes

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this, but the Mets have lost another pitcher to injury; Steven Matz is going to the DL and is expected to have surgery soon to relief elbow nerve irritation.
  • Stephen Piscotty was activated as the 26th man for Sunday’s double-header and has remained on the roster as the Cards optioned Luke Voit.
  • Andrew Miller left Monday’s game with what the Indians are saying is a recurrence or re-aggravation of the patellar tendinitis that had sent him to the 10-day DL recently.
  • Clayton Kershaw threw a simulated game on Monday and he reportedly felt so good that he went an extra inning.
  • Miguel Montero was tweeting up a storm (three separate links) following Sunday’s wild finish between the Cubs and Jays at Wrigley. If you’ll recall, Miggy was the Jays’ starting catcher and actually took Kyle Hendricks deep for the game’s only homer, but was replaced by Raffy Lopez when the Jays had to switch out pitchers. That would prove pivotal, as the backup-backup catcher looked lost in the 10th inning. In case your network blocks Twitter, the former Cub spent time thanking the Cubs and also kind of giving a “C’mon, man” to those fans who booed his return.
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