We know that, if they’re ready to go from a preparation standpoint, Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, and Wade Miley will be three of the arms in the Cubs’ rotation to open the year (Miley might be a little behind initially). We also know that David Ross has suggested Alec Mills will get a look as a starter initially. But what about the fifth starter spot? And will there actually be only five starters to open the year?
Ross spoke to that issue, confirming that lefty Drew Smyly, who starts today for the Cubs, will open the season in the rotation. The 32-year-old lefty was signed to a $5.25 million deal with the ability to swing in and out of the rotation, but it was pretty clear – based on that deal, and based on the way the Cubs see him – that he was likely going to get a starting crack early on. Also, Smyly has been a starter most of his career, and in his younger, healthier days, he was a really good one. I am all good with him opening the season in the rotation.
Yesterday’s starter, Justin Steele, is also expected to be in the rotation, per Marquee. So, if Mills is also in the rotation, you’d have six guys opening the season “in the rotation,” which really wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way pitchers are still ramping up.
That said, it’s also possible that Mills will wind up piggybacking with Smyly – note that Mills is also pitching today in a ‘B’ game. Think about it: if you start Smyly, your opposing lineup is likely to be more righty-heavy. Then, a turn or two through the order, you bring in Mills, who dominates righties. The opponent can swap some guys out for sure, but not the whole lineup. Sure seems like piggybacking Mills with Smyly (or Steele) could be a good way to open the season.
Which brings me to a bigger picture point here, and it’s something I’ve said before: because of the funky offseason, and because of the state of the Cubs’ pitching corps, I really don’t think it much matters who is “in the rotation” for the Cubs to open the season. There are going to be several “starters” who are explicitly going only a few innings at a time, and there are going to be several “relievers” who also go a few innings at a time. Honestly, I don’t expect to see a stabilized “rotation” for the Cubs for at least a few weeks, and maybe longer.