It was a foregone conclusion that Jon Lester would be the Cubs' starter on Opening Night at Wrigley Field (and as such, throw the first pitch of the 2015 major-league season), and now we have confirmation of that as well as some other information about the rotation, both for the regular season and spring training:
It's official: @JLester34 will start Opening Night for #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 2, 2015
#Cubs Maddon also confirms Hendricks expected in rotation. That leaves Wood, Jackson, Doubront, others battling for 5th spot— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 2, 2015
#Cubs pitching: Wood vs A's, Turner vs SF on Thu; Lester on Fri; Hammel/Doubront on Sat; Arrieta/Wada on Sun; Jackson/Hendricks on Mon— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 2, 2015
Note: none of the last three games listed are split squads. Instead, the starters listed will likely throw two innings each. When there's more information about who will follow the starters in each spring game, I'll post it.
You know how big a fan I am of Kyle Hendricks and this move by Joe Maddon confirms the confidence the organization has in him. I think he's well-suited for the No. 4 spot in the rotation -- that takes a lot of pressure off a young pitcher to know there are three guys ahead of him.
Thus Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada are the likely candidates for the one remaining spot in the rotation. Most of you are probably hoping Jackson throws well enough to be traded. Turner and Wada could wind up in the bullpen (with the possibility of being a Carlos Villanueva-like swingman) if they don't make the rotation, which leaves Wood and Doubront.
Both have talent. They are about eight months apart in age. Wood had a very good 2013 and a very bad 2014. Doubront threw well at times for the Red Sox and had a couple of good starts for the Cubs late last year, but has been inconsistent.
If I had to choose right now? I think I'd choose Wood, despite his poor 2014 season. He's shown he can be a competent starter at the big-league level, and while we still have pitchers batting in the National League, he adds value at the plate every time he starts.
This will be one of the key things to watch this spring, along with the question of who starts the season as the Opening Day third baseman. Your thoughts, as always, welcome.