Yu Darvish officially signing with the Chicago Cubs was the biggest news of the day, as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Mesa, Ariz., but there was one more piece of information that’s worthy of some attention.
It’s related to Darvish, who joins an already good starting rotation that now makes it one of the best in MLB. With Darvish on board, left-hander Mike Montgomery is on the outside looking in at the starting five for Joe Maddon. The 28-year-old showed off his versatility in 2017, making 14 starts with the Cubs, while making 30 more appearances from the bullpen. However, Montgomery made it known to the media earlier this offseason that he wanted a shot at being a starter, expressing some frustration on how he used utilized as a swing man.
Well, the Cubs’ plan in spring training is to prepare Montgomery as a starter. So, does that mean the Cubs are going to try a six-man rotation?
Not quite yet.
Theo says Mike Montgomery will be considered the 6th starter this spring. That doesn't mean they'll go with 6-man rotation #Cubs
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 13, 2018
However, the Cubs did switch things up last year, when the starting pitchers were held back in spring training. The main reason was conserve energy and have the rotation healthy for a postseason run. Yet, unlike the previous couple years, when the Cubs had incredible fortune keeping the rotation off the disabled list, 2017 saw every starter sidelined at one point or another except for Jose Quintana.
Last week, Bruce Levine said the Cubs would be keeping the same plan for their starting pitchers this spring training.
Bruce Levine says the Cubs are sticking to the same plan as 2017, when they held back their starting pitchers in spring training.
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) February 9, 2018
In 2017, the Cubs also flipped around the rotation a few times, trying to give the veterans some more rest between starts.
So, with Montgomery stretching out as a starter from the beginning of spring training, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to see the Cubs go to a six-man rotation at some point of the year.
My guess is that the Cubs do think about going with a 6-man rotation, if all healthy, for *some* stretches this year. Maybe not right out of the gate, but for some stretches. The benefits for health, production, and postseason are just so huge.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 13, 2018
The Cubs obviously would love to see Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood stay healthy all year long, but if you’re a fan you know that in case of emergency Montgomery is available and a more than capable starter.
However, it’s pretty obvious that Montgomery prefers to start than continually switching back and forth throughout the season. Yes, Montgomery knows that part of the reason is because pitchers make more money as starters than relievers, but he also explained how the role he was in took a toll on him.
You get the sense that Montgomery didn’t want his versatility and resilient left arm to be taken for granted. The swingman has spoken with Cubs president Theo Epstein and new pitching coach Jim Hickey about “being smarter” in “how we might transition that.”
“Long-term in my career – what I was doing last year – I just don’t know how sustainable that is,” Montgomery said after an informal workout last week in Mesa. “From a physical standpoint, it is hard. It took a toll on my body, my arm. Making starts and coming out of the bullpen three days later – and pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen – I don’t think it’s something that I want to do long-term.”
So, the Cubs and Montgomery will have to work on how to balance the workload because even after a pretty effective regular season for the lefty, who had a 3.38 ERA in 130.2 innings, he looked to be out of gas come October.
“It’s kind of balancing my health, in my mind, and being able to help the club,” Montgomery said. “They kind of go hand in hand. Because if I’m at my best physically – even if it’s a role that I might not want to necessarily be in – it’s going to help the team.
“Me at 70, 60 percent – because I’m worn down – is not going to help the team. I think it’s looking at it from that angle as well.”
There’s also the chance that eventually Montgomery could be more valuable to the Cubs as a trade piece. The lefty already has some interest around the league.
The #Orioles were one of five teams which recently checked in with the #Cubs about Mike Montgomery. They’re also still interested in the #Astros’ Collin McHugh and the #Rays’ Jake Odorizzi. Key question is what they’re prepared to part with in order to make the trade(s) happen?
— DAN CLARK (@DanClarkSports) February 12, 2018
Montgomery is under team control through 2021.