Assuming the health of all Chicago Cubs starting pitchers on Opening Day, it remains to be seen which lefty takes the ball for the Cubs’ fifth game of the season, Mike Montgomery or Brett Anderson.
We haven’t really fixated on the question like we might have in other years, where the winner of the fifth starter competition on a team with playoff aspirations would be among the more weighty spring storylines. The reason it doesn’t get a lot of heat here in Cubs came is because the team has been pretty transparent from the moment Anderson was signed that they expect both pitchers to make a number of starts this year, and also work out of the bullpen at times.
In an ideal world, the two would not only split up the fifth starter starts, but would also at times work as the sixth starter, giving each other extra time off, as well as the rest of the rotation.
Moreover, even if one of the two were anointed the fifth starter out of the gate, that doesn’t mean he’s got the gig on lockdown no matter what, nor does it mean an injury won’t happen to that guy or elsewhere in the rotation.
So, then, who “wins” the fifth starter job may prove to be mostly meaningless.
At present, the plan remains to use both of them in the role, though Joe Maddon did mention to Cubs.com that “Anderson has been more of a starter, but ‘Monty’ has been amenable or able to relieve. We’ll see how it plays out.” Does that mean the default, all else equal, is that Anderson is the starter? Well, I wouldn’t take Maddon’s words to mean explicitly that, but I think most of us would agree that’s probably the default anyway, right?
Montgomery has demonstrated definitive success in the bullpen, but not quite yet in the rotation over a long period of time. Anderson, by contrast, has demonstrated definitive success in the rotation (when healthy), but not quite yet in the bullpen over a long period of time. It would only make sense for the “all else equal” situation to be Anderson begins in the rotation, and Montgomery slides in eventually.
The regular season is peeking around the corner, but it’s still a few weeks away. So much can change in that time that, in addition to the reasons laid out above, I can’t get too worked up about who the fifth starter is going to be just yet.