Nobody knows if transitioning back to a full 162 game schedule will wind up leading to more pitcher’s injuries this season, but teams seem to be preparing for that to be the case. The Chicago Cubs are no exception.
With four spots in the starting rotation locked down, it all comes down to that fifth and final spot. Now, Chicago will undoubtedly utilize more than five starting pitchers this season but, at least on paper, David Ross plans on employing a five-man staff to open the year.
Kyle Hendricks headlines the staff and is the presumed Opening Day starter. He’ll be followed by some combination of newcomers Zach Davies and Trevor Williams and old friend Jake Arrieta. So far, the rotation has been largely solid this spring. But there’s still one spot to decide and it will likely come down to three guys.
The first is familiar to Cubs fans, given he threw a no-hitter last summer. That is Alec Mills who, despite making history, experienced his fair share of ups and downs on the mound in 2020. His peripherals weren’t all that impressive, but he was successful in limiting hard contact and walks.
He relied on his sinker more than ever before last year, and you can expect more of the same from him this season given the defense behind him. Chicago excelled defensively in 2020 and that’s once again a major focus for Ross this spring.
When it comes to Mills, it all comes down to consistency. One thing to keep an eye on is how well he fares throwing to Willson Contreras. He was notably stronger with Victor Caratini behind the plate last year – but with Caratini now with Yu Darvish in San Diego, that’s obviously not an option this time around.