The return of Jon Lester and the continued ascension of Mike Montgomery have complicated the Cubs starting rotation during the final month of the season.
Having too many starting pitchers to choose from, though, would be one of those good problems to have.
“We’re trying to look at the big picture,” Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said. “Every team we’re playing. And now that you have an extra guy, you can manipulate things a little bit. That’s what we’re working on moving forward.”
The Cubs announced Saturday that Jake Arrieta is scheduled to pitch Monday in Pittsburgh followed by Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Lester and John Lackey.
Montgomery is scheduled to make his last spot start in Sunday’s finale against the Braves, but it may not be his last start of the season. Maddon said it’s possible Montgomery will start again before the playoffs.
“(Montgomery) wants to start,” Maddon said. “He’ll tell you that straight up. I get it. But then he’ll say, ‘Listen, if you need me in the bullpen I’m fine there, too.’”
Montgomery has been superb in two starts in place of Lester, allowing one total earned run in 13 innings. He picked up wins in both starts.
Maddon said the starts by Lester and Montgomery on Saturday and Sunday would have no bearing on the rotation moving forward.
Behind the plate
The Cubs offense has survived the absence of catcher Willson Contreras thanks, in part, to backup catchers Alex Avila and Rene Rivera.
The Cubs acquired both veteran backstops in the past month, and the moves have paid dividends.
Besides their experience, leadership and quality defense, both have added a solid bat to the second half of the lineup.
“That’s two really good catchers to get at a moment’s notice,” Maddon said.
Rivera started Saturday so that he can become comfortable catching Lester. He hit his first home run in a Cubs uniform in the second inning – a grand slam off the foul pole in left.
In seven games with the Cubs he has seven hits, five RBI and three walks.
Avila has played 22 games on the North Side, reaching base at a .370 clip and hitting three homers with 15 RBI.
“They’ve done a nice job, both of them,” Maddon said. “Rene the other day had some really good line drives to opposite field, and Alex has come up clutch.”
Good company for Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo hit a three-run, bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning Saturday, picking up his 100th RBI of the season.
Rizzo became the fourth player in franchise history to reach 30 homers, 30 doubles and 100 RBI in three seasons on the North Side. He joins Hack Wilson, Sammy Sosa and Billy Williams.
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