The Chicago Cubs have their initial trio of starting pitchers in place for the regular season, and it’s maybe not quite what you would’ve been expecting.
As expected, Kyle Hendricks gets the opener against Corbin Burnes and the Brewers on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. In a surprise, manager David Ross says it’s Justin Steele getting the game two start, presumably the product of the Wade Miley injury and the desire to break up the similarly-situated righties in the rotation. That is to say, Marcus Stroman will go in game three.
There is another benefit of having Steele start in between Hendricks and Stroman, besides breaking up the two softer-tossing righties: it also breaks up the guys who are most likely to have short outings and require piggybacks. If you go Hendricks and Stroman on the first two days, you might thereafter have three (or four!) straight starters who can give you only three or four innings. This way, in theory, you get some length from Hendricks in game one with a typical-ish bullpen usage from there. Then you have Steele go maybe four innings and maybe you have someone like Jesse Chavez pre-planned to go the next three innings. And then Marcus Stroman pitches the third game. If no one gets bombed out, you’ve started the season using just one of your long arms in the pen in the first three games, and that guy is already on recovery day number two by Sunday.
I like this. The Cubs aren’t going to have the best roster in the NL Central by any stretch, so they are going to need every little possible edge they can secure. This rotation order PROBABLY won’t matter all that much. But if there’s a 1% chance that it could help you take an extra game in the series and/or be better set up for the next week? The Cubs are going to need as many of those “1% chance” bumps as possible.
Also: not that he’s getting game two over Stroman for any reason other than what was discussed above, but still, it’s a nice feather in Steele’s cap, no? Just kinda cool that a homegrown arm is going to be starting game two for the Cubs this year. Love his upside, too.
After Stroman on Saturday, it’s a good bet that we’ll see Drew Smyly start on Sunday, perhaps with another piggyback (Alec Mills? Keegan Thompson?). After that, the Cubs have an off-day on Monday, so it’s possible they’ll just skip right back to Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday rather than starting, for example, Mills or Thompson. We’ll see.