It’s never too early to start thinking about the postseason rotation, unless of course you’re the one in charge of talking to the media about your October plan.
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross doesn’t have to name his three postseason starters for the Wild Card Series until they make it. And it would be crazy for Ross to do otherwise, with 23 games remaining and his team in the thick of both the National League Central race and the wild-card chase.
Unless the Cubs clinch a spot before the final week, Ross might need his top starters in the last two series in Atlanta and Milwaukee just to get in.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate, so let’s do it.
There’s no doubt who Ross’s first two starters would be in the best-of-three series. Justin Steele, a National League Cy Young Award candidate, would be a virtual lock for a Game 1 matchup if the Cubs didn’t need him to get in.
Kyle Hendricks, who started Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, would seem like a certainty for Game 2, based on his postseason experience and a strong second half.
But after those two, things get a little tricky.
Jameson Taillon, brought in to be the No. 2 starter last offseason, has endured two stretches of inconsistency in his first year in Chicago. He started out poorly with a 6.93 ERA over his first 14 starts before righting himself in July. He then went 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his next six starts, looking like the pitcher president Jed Hoyer thought he signed when he gave Taillon a four-year, $68 million deal.
But he’s regressed since, posting a 7.18 ERA in his last five starts while serving up eight home runs over 26 1/3 innings.
Which Taillon will show up for the stretch? It’s impossible to say.
If he doesn’t rebound, would Hoyer and Ross skip over the veteran in favor of a rookie like Javier Assad or Jordan Wicks? They might not have a choice.
Which brings us to Door No. 3: Does Marcus Stroman still have a shot at returning and getting a postseason start?
The Cubs’ All-Star and would-be ace threw a second bullpen session Monday at the team’s complex in Mesa, Ariz., in hopes of getting back before the end of the season. Stroman hadn’t thrown since suffering a mysterious injury — fractured right rib cartilage — in Toronto in mid-August while preparing to return from right hip inflammation. He went to Tampa to rest, then reported to Arizona last week.
Ross said he hasn’t spoken to Stroman to see whether the pitcher was pain-free, but was told Stroman was “excited” about the progress after two bullpen sessions.
“That would (make me) assume he’s able to build up and he’s looking forward to pitching in games,” Ross said. “So that would tell me he’s able to get after it.”
Obviously it would take much longer for Stroman to build up his pitch count to start than to relieve. So would the Cubs consider bringing him back in a relief role instead?
Ross replied they’re simply building Stroman’s arm up; no plan is in place on how he’d be used.
“Things happen and turnover can move fast,” he said before lumping Stroman in with the rehab stints of Michael Fulmer and unnamed minor league pitchers, perhaps referring to Triple-A Iowa starter Ben Brown and left-hander Brandon Hughes.
“We’ll just see how many guys we can get healthy and take it from there,” Ross said.
Stroman would likely have to make a couple of minor-league rehab starts at the very least for the Cubs to see if he was physically and mentally ready. His last start was July 31, and Stroman struggled in his final seven starts, compiling a 9.00 ERA.
Ross conceded he didn’t know “if it makes sense … to throw him into a pennant race from where he’s at” in rehab. But he didn’t discount the possibility of Stroman returning, even as the minor-league season ends in 2 1/2 weeks.
“A healthy version of him is a good thing for us,” Ross said, reiterating he hadn’t spoken yet to Stroman.
“I don’t want him to listen to an interview and get pissed off,” he said. “We haven’t made any decision today. We’ll get him healthy and I think we’ll stretch him out as far as we can, work him back to be a starter. And if we get to a point that benefits us, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll look at another role.”
The fact that Stroman wants to return is a good sign, though it would be a risk to bring him back without a proper build-up. He could enter free agency in November if he exercises the opt-out in his contract, so proving to other teams he’s healthy going into the offseason would be in Stroman’s best interest, financially speaking.
Of course, it could all be moot if the Cubs blow the wild-card spot and fall short of catching the Brewers in the NL Central race. Anything can happen, as most Cubs fans know all too well.
Ross will likely stick with his regulars down the stretch, leaving slumping Christopher Morel to figure things out coming off the bench for the time being.
“Look, we’re in a really good position to win,” Ross said. “The guys that got us here are going to play, and the guys that are on the bench, they’ve got roles.”
Denial of responsibility! Planetconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.