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If Jon Lester can’t make his next start, who could take his spot?

Could the answer be within the farm system?

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Jon Lester left his start with a hamstring injury. He might, or might not, be good to go for his next scheduled start. If he isn’t good to go, someone from the minor league system will be asked to fill in, as a starting pitcher or a reliever. The two players assumed to fill in for injured pitchers would have been Tyler Chatwood or the currently injured Mike Montgomery. This is a look at other available options.

The first look is at pitchers on the 40-man roster, but not on the current 25-man roster. Those would be Adbert Alzolay, Tim Collins, Carl Edwards Jr., Dillon Maples, Alec Mills, James Norwood, Justin Steele, Duane Underwood Jr. and Rowan Wick. As of Monday at 5 p.m CT, neither Alzolay nor Mills has yet pitched in a minor league game this season. Steele has started a game at Double-A, but likely isn’t ready for MLB duty. Here are thumbnails of the others.

Collins is a MLB veteran lefty reliever. He has a bit of the Allen Webster scenario in that he’d need to clear waivers to be returned to Iowa. Assess that as you will.

Edwards is a reasonably well-known quantity.

Maples now is still a bit similar to Maples in 2018, or in spring training.

Norwood has pitched well in Iowa in relief so far, as has Wick.

Underwood pitched the second game of the I-Cubs season, throwing 3⅓ innings and surrendering four runs and hits.


The Iowa Cubs rotation is currently (in order of use) Duncan Robinson, Underwood, Matt Swarmer, Colin Rea, and Trevor Clifton, the latter of whom started on Monday night. Rea has MLB experience, and has MLB option seasons remaining. If forced to guess which minor league starting pitcher would get the call, for me it would be Rea. This is the purpose of adding players like Rea to minor league deals. Adding Rea, Robinson, Swarmer, or Clifton would require another roster move, as none is currently on the 40-man roster.

The Cubs could decide to use Chatwood as a one-off starter. Either way, I’d expect a roster move promptly, to allow leeway until Lester’s spot comes up in the rotation. As needed, Rea (or anyone else) could be added on the needed day.

Which player gets designated for assignment? I recuse myself on that one. As much as people in spring training mock the triviality of a 40-man move, the Cubs are realistically looking at potentially parting ways with three players on the 40-man roster. At some point, someone dispatched might have been worth keeping for the future.

A Triple-A rotation is often built around MLB readiness. The Cubs aren’t there yet, but at least the options in Iowa are all potential back-end starters.

Who should the Cubs add? Who should they subtract from the 40? My hunch would be Wick or Norwood until Lester is due, and then Rea. Now, it’s your turn to decide.


Who would you use the next time Jon Lester is due to pitch?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Jon Lester
    (61 votes)
  • 47%
    Tyler Chatwood
    (183 votes)
  • 15%
    Duane Underwood Jr.
    (59 votes)
  • 8%
    Colin Rea
    (34 votes)
  • 7%
    Duncan Robinson/Matt Swarmer/Trevor Clifton
    (28 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (leave in comments)
    (19 votes)
384 votes total Vote Now