When the Chicago Cubs acquired Mike Montgomery, they knew they had a young pitcher under team control for several years. Although a bullpen arm when they got him from the Seattle Mariners, the Cubs may have bigger plans for him.
At just 27 years old, Chicago Cubs‘ lefty swingman Mike Montgomery is likely to fill many different roles before the end of this season. His start in Chicago was ominous, but since then Montgomery has become a pitcher that Joe Maddon is growing more comfortable with each day. He’ll be a swingman for now, with more starts likely to come to give the staff a rest. But it’s what lies beyond this year that makes him more intriguing.
The pitching staff of the Cubs has had many changes during Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s tenure. Reliable bullpen lefty Travis Wood was once a starter. And three years ago, Jake Arrieta could have stood in front of you and you wouldn’t have known it. There wasn’t a Jon Lester or a Jon Lackey. And Kyle Hendricks was a soft tossing pitcher that reminded people of Greg Maddux. Now he’s starting to give us the inkling that could be more than just hope.
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Arrieta is hands down the ace of the staff, even with this year’s up and down season. Lester is inked to a big contract, one the Cubs know that he’ll be less effective at towards the end of. Lackey is nearing the end of his career after next season, even though he seems as if he could pitch forever (his stint on the DL could be telling him differently).
Jason Hammel has a team option for 2017, and Arrieta will be a free agent after next season. There is the possibility that the Cubs could lose three of the current starting staff. While things are good now, eventually guys like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber will need to get paid. So having all the money tied up in the pitching staff isn’t the most economic plan.
This is where Montgomery comes in. The spot starts he’s getting this year are more than just help from the bullpen. It’s essentially an audition for the lefty. In his career, he’s 5-7 as a starter, with most of those in his rookie year. One of the most notable numbers that jumps out is his home runs allowed. In 110 2/3 innings as a starter, he’s allowed 14 home runs. As a reliever? Just two of them in 59 innings. His BAbip are very similar (.293 as a starter, .290 as a reliever). The issue has very simply been a struggle to keep it in the park.
In his two spot starts for the Cubs, he’s allowed just four runs over 9 1/3 innings. He did allow a home run against Colorado, but that was all he surrendered. The numbers aren’t extraordinary, but considering he hadn’t been stretched out to start makes them more impressive. With Lackey out, Montgomery has helped pick up the slack and keep the Cubs on pace for 100 wins.
It may be looking ahead, but the Cubs need to have a plan for this rotation. And in the past five years? I’ve learned to “trust the plan”. It’s working so far, so let’s stick with it.