Full rotation over next week: Lester on Monday, Darvish on Tuesday, Hamels on Wednesday, Hendricks on Thursday, Quintana on Friday.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) February 23, 2019
The Cubs have a split squad on Monday. They’ll face the Padres at Sloan Park and the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. It wasn’t specifically stated, but I would assume Lester will go at Sloan Park rather than have to take the 30-mile bus ride to Glendale.
Will this be the rotation when the regular season begins March 28 in Arlington, Texas? The answer is a decided “maybe”:
Maddon joked that reporters can “do whatever you want” in projecting whether the alignment will remain intact for the regular season.
Here’s what I think. If those five continue in that order, it would be Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels against the Rangers.
While it hasn’t been officially stated, I would assume that Lester will get the nod on Opening Day. He’s been the Cubs’ Opening Day starter three of the last four years (Jake Arrieta had the honors in 2016).
But throwing Darvish and Hamels against their old team, the Rangers, might not be the best idea, especially in Arlington. In 2017, the last year Darvish pitched for the Rangers before he was traded to the Dodgers, he made 12 starts in Globe Life Park. He posted a 5.38 ERA and allowed 13 home runs in 72 innings.
Hamels, as you likely remember, was even worse at home for the Rangers last year before the Cubs traded for him. In 10 starts at GLP he posted a 6.41 ERA with 16 (!) home runs allowed in just 59 innings.
So my suggestion would be to let Hamels and Darvish, who combined for 210 starts in their Rangers careers, enjoy the return to their former park, perhaps even get a nod from Rangers fans, and have them start against the Braves in Atlanta in the Cubs’ second series of the year.
A better rotation for the Cubs to open the season might be Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana in Texas, followed by Hamels and Darvish in the first two games against the Braves, followed by Lester.
We’ll see what happens. Remember that the Cubs will have a pair of exhibitions against the Red Sox March 25 and 26 and an off day March 27 (as well as two off days during the Cactus League season, March 11 and 18), during which they could re-set the rotation.