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The Cubs’ Last Rotation Spot: Brett Anderson or Mike Montgomery?

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Two lefties battle it out for this slot.

Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Like the overall Cubs 25-man roster, the pitching staff for Opening Night against the Cardinals is pretty well set.

Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey make up the first four spots in the rotation.

Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Koji Uehara, Justin Grimm and Brian Duensing are the first seven relievers.

That’s 11 pitchers and the Cubs, for most of last year, carried 13. I’m not really in favor of that (I’d rather see a 12-man staff), but Joe Maddon seems to like it, so it seems that’ll be the way they’ll go.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery are the two remaining candidates. Montgomery went back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in 2016 and seemed to take to the hybrid role, and got the last out of the World Series.

Anderson, who’s coming back from injury, has started through most of his career (127 appearances, 115 starts, 11 of the 12 relief outings in a year he was struggling, 2013). I don’t see the Cubs looking at him as a reliever.

Maddon suggested the possibility of “hybrid roles” for Anderson and Montgomery:

"The big thing with both of them (is) neither one has really been stretched out anywhere close to 200 innings over the last couple years," Maddon said before a 4-3 split-squad win over Oakland. "So we're thinking it's almost like a hybrid moment. Maybe fold one back into the bullpen while the other one starts. And vice versa. Or just jump a sixth guy in there now and then to keep the other guys from being overworked too early.

"It's in theory right now. We haven't actually laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. If everybody stays healthy, you got six guys that you like right there. It's hard for anybody to say that. That's the point. These guys have not been really satisfactorily stretched out over the last couple years.

"How do we keep them both active and helping us? That's going to be our challenge early and through the beginning part of the season."

If anyone can manage something like this, Maddon can. It certainly wouldn’t be anything that’s been seen before, not for an entire season, though some teams have tried it at times.

One thing the Cubs could potentially do is use a four-man rotation during the season’s first two weeks, since there are three off days in the first 11 days of the 2017 season. Something like this would use four starters who would still get four days’ rest each:

April 2: Lester
April 4: Hendricks
April 5: Arrieta
April 7: Lackey
April 8: Lester
April 9: Hendricks
April 10: Arrieta
April 12: Lackey
April 13: Lester
April 14: Hendricks
April 15: Arrieta
April 16: Anderson or Montgomery

(This is just an example. Flip Arrieta and Hendricks if you want Kyle to have the home opener start.)

Thus the Cubs could get to game 12 of this season before they have to use a fifth starter. Conceivably, they could leave Anderson or Montgomery at extended spring training to get regular work and go with four starters and eight relievers for that time, which would also (temporarily) solve the Matt Szczur/Tommy La Stella dilemma.

Both Anderson and Montgomery are likely going to be on the 25-man roster. Both are out of options. The only Cubs pitchers likely to make the team who have options remaining are Hendricks and Edwards, and neither one of those guys is going to be sent down.

What would you do?