Chicago Cubs: Jon Lester named Opening Day starter

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs will send veteran left-hander Jon Lester to the mound on Opening Day this year. How will the rest of the starting rotation stack up?

On Monday morning, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon named veteran Jon Lester the team’s starter for Opening Day. The news was reported by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. This will be the fourth year Lester starts the opener for the Cubs as he enters his fifth year on his contract. In 2016, reigning National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta took the ball, the only time Lester hasn’t gotten the ball to open the regular season slate in his Cubs career.

There really is not much surprise with this decision. While Kyle Hendricks may be the best starter on the team going into 2019, Lester is still considered the ace even in his advanced age. In the end, the southpaw was probably Maddon’s choice since before players reported. Hendricks was the only other pitcher who had any chance of earning the honors.

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According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, the rest of the rotation order is yet to be determined. That will be worked out as spring training goes on. Maddon probably has a good idea of where he wants it, but nothing officially put down yet. Everyone in this projected rotation pitched with the team last year at some point.

How can the rest of the Opening Day rotation stack up?

With Lester at number one, there is no reason to think Hendricks won’t be second. Lester and Hendricks were likely going to be 1-2 in the rotation and it would be very surprising to see him lower. So that is a pretty safe bet for the time being.

The three-spot may be where Cole Hamels starts. Having your top-three alternate left/right and being the most reliable and durable starters is never a bad approach. Hamels has typically been a 2-3 guy in the rotation his entire career and chances are it stays that way. Things may be different if he did not do as well as he did with the Cubs last year, but unless something happens in spring it feels like he has earned that spot.

The last two spots (barring injury) would obviously belong to Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana. Those could probably go either way. Darvish has the stuff to be an ace, but coming off an injury last year he likely will be in the four spot. Quintana was a mid-to-top of the rotation guy in his White Sox days, but he battled inconsistency in each of the past two seasons. If he returns to form then he will be one of the best bottom-of-the-rotation guys in the National League.

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Time will tell how Maddon puts together the rest of the rotation. He may surprise us and have Darvish or Quintana higher and Hamels lower. Regardless this is a deep pitching staff and if they are healthy and pitching to their full skill set then it will not make as much of a difference who is going on what day.

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