SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — For a number of reasons, it’s been pretty much expected that Jon Lester would be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter March 29 in Miami.
The first reason would be his seniority on the staff and the fact that he’s made two Opening Day starts in his three years with the team (Jake Arrieta got the call in 2016, rightfully so). Lester also made four Opening Day starts with the Red Sox from 2011-14.
Second is the team’s probable desire to have Lester not start in the series against the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Brewers are a running team and have given Lester trouble in the past. The only way to do that would be to start Lester on Opening Day, which would also give him the start in game 6 of the season at Cincinnati, and then have him on target to start the home opener April 9 against the Pirates.
Saturday, Joe Maddon announced the starters for the next several spring games and strongly hinted Lester will get the nod on Opening Day:
Maddon said he will announce the starting rotation this week, with the expectation that left-hander Jon Lester will start the opener March 29 in Miami.
“It will become obvious,” Maddon said.
Tyler Chatwood will start Monday against the Mariners, followed by Lester on Tuesday against the White Sox. Kyle Hendricks and Mike Montgomery will pitch Wednesday against the A’s, and Yu Darvish will pitch Thursday against the Rockies.
Jose Quintana will travel Friday to face the Angels in Tempe, Ariz.
If the Cubs starters continue to follow this sequence, the rotation would set up as Lester, Hendricks, Darvish, Quintana and Chatwood, and that would be a logical sequence to follow, splitting up the two lefthanders and giving Hendricks, who has had two very good seasons in a row, the second slot behind Lester.
Having said that, I wouldn’t assume that to be the case. While Lester is likely to get the Opening Day start, don’t forget that the Cubs have two off days this spring (March 12 and March 20), at which time Joe could rearrange things.
But we now do know that the five expected rotation starters will begin to appear in games tomorrow, with sixth starter/swingman Montgomery piggybacking with Hendricks Tuesday. Expect to see these pitchers go no more than two innings each in their first outings.
Incidentally, with the Angels on a six-man rotation, I would anticipate that Shohei Ohtani will be their starter facing the Cubs this Friday in Tempe.