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Some thoughts about the Cubs’ starting rotation for 2021

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What order will David Ross choose for his five starters?

Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Cubs manager David Ross has yet to announce his Opening Day starter or any order for the rotation.

However, we can make some educated guesses based on the choice to resume the Cactus League schedule tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17.

Kyle Hendricks will take the mound at Sloan Park to face the Padres.

That would set Hendricks up perfectly to go on Opening Day, April 1. Four days’ rest beginning with a March 17 start would have him start March 22 and March 27 in spring games. The latter would allow four days’ rest before the April 1 opener at Wrigley Field against the Pirates.

So while Ross hasn’t announced his OD starter, I’m 99.9 percent sure it will be Hendricks, who will be making his second Opening Day start.

Who goes next? Well, we’ll get a hint to that by the choice of starter for Thursday’s game against Cleveland. We don’t yet know who that will be.

I’m guessing it will be Jake Arrieta, who last threw on Friday against the Brewers. Zach Davies, who pitched in a “B” game on Saturday at Sloan Park, would then slot in the third spot, assuming he goes on Friday against the A’s.

That would leave Trevor Williams in the No. 4 spot.

Now things get interesting. It’s been widely assumed that either Alec Mills or Adbert Alzolay would be named the No. 5 starter, with whoever doesn’t get the nod slotted into a bullpen role where he’d be a long relief guy/spot starter.

Do not count Shelby Miller out of that mix:

In camp on a minor-league deal, the right-hander is doing everything he can to force the Cubs to put him on the roster.

Miller tossed two scoreless innings Monday. During his second inning, he struck out Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada and Jimenez, with a double by Jose Abreu down the right-field line his lone blemish.

The development of Miller’s slider has given him two pitches he feels confident to throw when he gets ahead in the count and is looking to put batters away.

“I’m just taking care of what I can do,” Miller said afterward. “As long as I’m going out there and competing and getting guys out, who knows what’s possible. Right now I feel like I’m in a good spot. ... Whatever opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready for it.”

The Cubs — and several other MLB teams — are still awaiting an arbitrator’s ruling on whether the abbreviated 2020 season counts as a “full season.” If the arbitrator rules it wasn’t, quite a number of players, including Alzolay, would qualify for a fourth option season. If that’s the case I would guess the Cubs would option Alzolay and if Miller continues to pitch as well as he has, he could take the No. 5 spot in the rotation with Mills becoming the “swingman.”

Miller, as noted, is on a minor-league contract. He’d need to be added to the 40-man roster. The obvious move right now to clear a 40-man spot would be to place Rowan Wick on the 60-day injured list, as he’s not likely to be ready before late April or early May.

As always, we await developments.