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The Cubs don’t need a fifth starter for 11 days

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... so will they option Adbert Alzolay back to South Bend?

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Cubs have two off days next week — Monday and Thursday — before and after a two-game series at Wrigley Field against the Indians.

These off days couldn’t come at a better time. Adbert Alzolay was recalled to be the starter for Thursday’s game, and he struggled.

The Cubs could use the off days to skip that fifth turn in the rotation, using the other four starters as follows on normal four days’ rest (the first three in this list have been officially announced), as follows:

Friday 9/11: Jon Lester
Saturday 9/12: Kyle Hendricks
Sunday 9/13: Alec Mills
Tuesday 9/15: Yu Darvish
Wednesday 9/16: Lester
Friday 9/18: Hendricks
Saturday 9/19: Mills
Sunday 9/20: Darvish
Monday 9/21: Lester

This rotation would set up well to have Darvish face both the Indians and Twins next week.

Then they’d need another starter Tuesday, September 22 so that the rest of the rotation could work on normal rest.

That’s 11 days from now. Thus, the Cubs could option Alzolay back to the alternate site in South Bend and add a reliever. That would seem likely to be lefthander Andrew Chafin, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks August 31. Chafin is currently on the injured list with a sprained finger on his throwing hand, but per this Tribune article he could be close to returning:

Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin (sprained left finger) threw a 25-pitch bullpen with no discomfort.

Here’s Chafin playing catch at Wrigley on Wednesday:

So here’s a move that would make sense: Option Alzolay to South Bend before Friday’s game and activate Chafin. Chafin is already on the 40-man roster, so no 40-man move would be needed.

The Tribune article also has this from Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein:

Tyler Chatwood (right forearm strain) and left-hander Jose Quintana (left lat inflammation) are scheduled to throw from 120 feet this weekend, followed by bullpen sessions.

“Certainly don’t rule out contributions from both those guys in shorter roles before the end of the season,” Epstein said. “But it’s a daily thing right now where any setback probably rules them out.”

Based on Theo’s comments, even if Chatwood and Quintana progress well in their return from injuries, they’re likely not going to go back into the rotation. Thus the rotation for the final six days of the regular season probably looks like this:

Tuesday 9/22: Alzolay
Wednesday 9/23: Hendricks
Thursday 9/24: Mills
Friday 9/25: Darvish
Saturday 9/26: Lester
Sunday 9/27: Alzolay (or bullpen game if postseason spot is locked in)

The three-game wild-card round series that the Cubs are likely to host will begin Tuesday, September 29. That sets up Hendricks, Darvish and Lester for those three games. With Hendricks and Darvish throwing as well as they are, the Cubs could possibly win that series in the first two games and thus have those two ready for Games 1 and 2 of a division series.

That’s the way I see it, anyway. Don’t be surprised if the Cubs make another roster move before Friday’s game.