Chicago Cubs: First four spots in rotation filled for now


Just in case you missed it, Chicago Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon announced southpaw ace Jon Lester as the team’s Opening Night starter against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, Apr. 5.

Now according to the Chicago Tribune, Maddon mentioned that the first four spots in the rotation ‘are secure’ with Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and, of course, No. 1 starter Lester – for now.

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On the same day Maddon delivered the news of Lester’s Opening Night nod, he noted that things could change, depending on how well the rest of the rotation performs this spring. Another situation that nobody dares to speak of this early on is the possibility of someone suffering an injury that keeps them out for a decent amount of time – potentially for the entire season.

Let’s knock on wood for that one.

"“The competition around here is unbelievable on so many different levels. But I’m not going to deny any of it (the rotation alignment) is accurate.”"

There’s no doubt that Arrieta and Hammel will serve as a solid two-three punch behind Lester, but Hendricks could potentially bump up a spot, if he does not regress – which most projections expect this season.

Hendricks, 25, made his big league debut alongside left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and did not disappoint. Chicago’s 25-year-old hurler finished the 2014 campaign with a solid 2.46 ERA, 47/15 K/BB ratio and 1.08 WHIP across 13 starts – spanning 80 1/3 frames.

All three pitchers (Arrieta, Hammel, Hendricks) had a stellar run last season with the Cubs, which eventually led to Hammel being shipped off to the Oakland Athletics for shortstop Addison Russell along with several other pieces.

Hammel, 32, picked up 17 starts for the Cubs prior to being shipped off to the West Coast. He carried a 2.98 ERA (108 2/3 innings), 104/23 K/BB ratio and a 8-5 record to Oakland before things got shaky late in the year.

Arrieta became the anchor of the rotation after both Hammel and Jeff Samardzija departed – posting a 2.53 ERA, 167/41 K/BB mark and 0.99 WHIP through 156 2/3 innings across 25 starts – all in which were career-highs for the five-year veteran and former top prospect.

Now as far as the final spot is concerned – guys such as Wada, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner will battle it out this spring to see who will receive the job.

With Wood, Lester and Turner’s first Cactus League starts already in the books, Doubront and Hammel are scheduled to pitch against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday while Arrieta and Wada take on the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

Jackson and Hendricks will start off the new week on Monday against the San Diego Padres.