Chicago Cubs: Big Jon will take the ball on Opening Day
We know who the Opening Day starter will be. Jon Lester will be on the bump to start the season on March 28. After that, it’s assumed that some order of Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, and Jose Quintana will follow.
If the Cubs go with a traditional five man rotation, that means oft-maligned Tyler Chatwood and swingman Mike Montgomery start in the pen. With seven pitchers already in place, that leaves room for, at most, six more guys to join them in the pen.
Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Carl Edwards are stone-cold locks if healthy. Now we’re down to three spots. Brian Duensing, Brandon Kintzler, and Brad Brach all have hefty salaries and were major leaguers last year, so there’s a very good chance it could be those three rounding out the pen. Duensing, in particular, will probably get a spot because of two reasons: first off, he’s left-handed and Montgomery is the only other lefty in the pen; secondly, he had a great 2017 with the Cubs and they’re probably hoping to rekindle that flame from two years ago.
While Brach and Kintzler are lesser known quantities with the Cubs directly (although Kintzler was here late last summer after the trade from Washington), they have both served as closers in the past. With Brandon Morrow sidelined to start the season, Joe Maddon has already announced he will go closer by committee, and leaning on guys who have done it before is not a terrible idea.
While the 13 guys I’ve mentioned above are the likely candidates for roster spots on Opening Day, there are several other bullpen options who could squeeze their way onto the roster either due to injury, trade, or performance. Guys to keep an eye on the last couple weeks of Spring Training include righties Dillon Maples, Alec Mills, Tony Barnette, and James Norwood as well as lefties Xavier Cedeno, Kyle Ryan and Randy Rosario.
While anything could happen at any given time, the Cubs’ roster and fight for spots is probably the least compelling storyline at the moment. Fans, players, and the organization itself are all ready for real games to actually begin so the Cubs can start to rinse the bitter taste of a 2018 Wild Card loss out of their mouth.