The Chicago Cubs have selected swing man Carlos Villanueva to start in the rotation as Jake Arrieta works his way back from some pre-season shoulder stiffness. That means Villanueva will make at least two starts for the Cubs in April, and possibly three or four. After that, when Arrieta returns, Villanueva will likely head to the bullpen, assuming the rest of the rotation is healthy.
The selection of Villanueva means that Chris Rusin will head to AAA Iowa to start the year, and continue in the rotation there. He’ll likely have a shot at some point this year to make some more starts in Chicago, though, even as a fill-in, he could be competing with Kyle Hendricks and Neil Ramirez in that role, and possibly also Eric Jokisch.
Barring a last minute waiver claim or change of heart about a prior cut, then, the bullpen to start the year shakes out as:
One of those guys will get bounced when Jake Arrieta is ready to go, pushing Villanueva into the pen. But you’d rather defer the decision, all things equal, because the more data you can get the better.