Chicago Cubs: Mike Montgomery excelling no matter the role

Apr 12, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery (38) delivers a pitch during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery (38) delivers a pitch during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Cubs’ southpaw Mike Montgomery continues to thrive no matter when, or how long, manager Joe Maddon turns to him out of the bullpen.

No one could have predicted it at the time, but Mike Montgomery was arguably the Chicago Cubs‘ most valuable pickup last July.

Montgomery even closed out the World Series for his first career save.

Officially replacing Travis Wood and assuming the role Adam Warren never could grasp with Chicago, Monty continues to pay off dividends. Coming into the season the southpaw never had a regular season save, and as of Monday, has two. Both of at least the three-inning variety.

Montgomery could also start at some point for Chicago.

Yes, whatever the role, whether throwing multiple innings in relief, or starting, Montgomery has been one of Theo Epstein’s most keen, and shrewd acquisitions.

Terrific tandem?

The other end of this spectrum is Eddie Butler‘s quest to remain the fifth starter, which was only boosted by Monday’s impressive outing against the Marlins Monday.

The two pitchers completed the game, and it made me realize just how effective a tandem it can be.

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Can being the operative word. Obviously, it’s not a full-proof solution to throw Montgomery multiple innings, or that he’ll always be available to do so. However, when it happens to work out, especially when Butler starts and you don’t know how long he’ll be able to go, it’s an excellent option.

Wade Davis being put on the paternity list is why Montgomery finished the game. The lefty also hadn’t pitched in a week.

The full Monty

On the season Montgomery has made 18 appearances, with 11 of them encompassing more than one inning. The first occurred when he pitched 2.1 innings against the Brewers Apr. 7, and then five days later he went 2.0 innings against the Dodgers.

Between Apr. 17 through 23rd, he made three appearances, nearly throwing two innings each time. Including Monday’s recent outing, he’s made at least four, three-inning appearances, including his first 4.0 inning save against the Giants.

This according to ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle.

"“Montgomery entered the day [Monday] with 13 relief appearances in which he’s gotten at least four outs, one shy of the big league lead held jointly by the Angels’ Yusmeiro Petit and the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling. With 14 of those now under his belt, Montgomery’s ERA in those long outings dropped to 1.35.”"

But instead of thinking of Eddie Butler as the Cubs fifth starter, the wildcard tandem of Butler and Montgomery handling the fifth spot is an interesting aspect.

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Butler needs to string together solid, consistent starts. Literally alternating good with bad, he had a tough outing in Wrigley against the Brewers amid rainy conditions and then got caught up in the team-wide funk against the Padres last week.

His next outing against the Rockies will be worth monitoring as he’ll attempt to make it out of the fifth inning for just the third time and would be the first time he’s done it consecutively.

It seems unlikely Brett Anderson would get another rotation shot, short of a significant injury to existing staff members. At least for now, the Butler/Montgomery tandem has worked.

Recently Anderson’s potential Cubs’ status was put to the question. Could Anderson join the bullpen?

Another chance?

He would represent another lefty and maybe fill in as a piece similar to Brian Duensing. Looking at the numbers, that potential experiment would be as much a shot in the dark as his rotation days, and any potential spot for him going forward.

In Spring training Joe Maddon broached the very subject regarding Anderson and Montgomery.

"“We can fold one into the bullpen while the other one starts. It’s in theory right now, but we haven’t laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. You’ve got six guys you like right there. These guys have not been satisfactorily stretched out. We want to keep them both.” — Carrie Muskat,"

Of course, this was prior to Opening Day, and before Anderson’s struggles in the rotation. Perhaps his back injury was the reason for his struggles?

And as mentioned above, the possibility looms about Montgomery starting.

Next: Make it five-straight wins for streaking North Siders

Though it is always optimal to have the rotation set, one through five, Montgomery has provided Maddon, Jed Hoyer and Theo a showcase of future rotation plans.

This season, and beyond.