There are a handful of expected, but interesting, pitching-related confirmations coming out of Cubs camp today.
The most expected of the expected is the announcement that lefty ace Jon Lester will open the season for the Cubs when they take on the Cardinals at Wrigley Field for ESPN’s Opening Night Game (Muskat, Gonzales, Rogers). Lester wasn’t brought in for $155 million to start second in the rotation, even if it’s mostly an honorarium. Assuming health, you can bet that Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks will follow Lester in the rotation.
I say Hendricks there because Maddon confirmed today that Hendricks is expected to be in the rotation (Mooney, Muskat). Again, that what we’ve been assuming, given his performance last year and the legitimate possibility that he could be very good. Still, with minor league options left, and a crazy volume of starting pitching depth behind him, the idea that Hendricks could be temporarily optioned to Iowa while the rotation was sorted out – assuming there were two other guys who were roughly in the same range of expected performance as Hendricks – was not crazy. It always seemed unlikely, however, and it seems even less likely now.
So that means the very crowded fifth starter fight will continue throughout camp. I looked into it here, in case you missed it.
As for Spring Training starts, Travis Wood will get the home opener against the A’s at Sloan Park on Thursday, with Jacob Turner taking the Scottsdale start against the Giants (Muskat). From there, Jon Lester will make his Spring debut on Friday at Sloan, followed in order by Felix Doubront and Jason Hammel on Saturday, Jake Arrieta and Tsuyoshi Wada on Sunday, and Kyle Hendricks and Edwin Jackson on Monday (Muskat, Rogers). The only other two pitchers you would consider nominally in the starter competition are Dallas Beeler and Eric Jokisch, but each has minor league options left.