Cubs lay out pitching schedule as Cactus League games ramp up
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Opening Day is just over a month away, and the Cubs are getting their ducks in a row on the pitching staff.
Alec Mills started the Cactus League Opener Saturday at Sloan Park and Tyler Chatwood got the ball for the first inning Sunday at Camelback Ranch, with Adbert Alzolay starting Monday against the Mariners. All three guys are vying for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation.
After Alzolay, the Cubs will roll out Jon Lester on Tuesday and Kyle Hendricks on Wednesday, both likely tossing only one inning. Yu Darvish is throwing live batting practice Monday and will simulate two innings of work before getting into game action over the weekend or next week.
Like manager David Ross, Jose Quintana has been hampered by the flu and the veteran southpaw will throw live batting practice when healthy and toss two innings in a game after that.
For the Cubs, it’s all about managing workload and trying to find the balance between building up stamina and not going too hard too early.
Each guy is also on a little bit of a different timeline, as pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and the rest of the staff work with the veteran players to formulate a plan that caters to what each guy needs. Some pitchers want to get into games early, other guys care more about building up their volume and stamina before ramping it up in live games.
Closer Craig Kimbrel will throw a live batting practice session either Monday or Tuesday and then throw another a couple days later before getting into game action.
“We have a lot of guys fighting for spots in the bullpen that we have to get innings with early,” Hottovy said Sunday. “Kimbrel’s not one of those guys. Really, it’s not much different for what we would do for most veteran-type relievers.
“The other thing is, if Kimbrel starts throwing now and we only want to get eight or nine outings in, then you have like four or five days off in between outings, which actually could be detrimental to guys building up their volume and workload leading into the season.
“It’s more of work back from that March 26 date [Opening Day] and then kinda build it that way.”
The Cubs have utilized the first two games of Cactus League play to get a look at all those relievers Hottovy mentioned. After Mills threw a scoreless inning Saturday, he was followed by Jharel Cotton, Duane Underwood Jr., Rex Brothers, James Norwood, Tyler Olson, Jason Adam, C.D. Pelham and Dakota Mekkes – all arms who could be in the mix for the final few bullpen spots.
Besides Chatwood on Sunday, the Cubs also threw out Colin Rea (who impressed with Triple-A Iowa last season), Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill and minor-league signing Ben Taylor.
There are still plenty of relievers who haven’t gotten into game action yet – including newcomers Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera – but that should be happening soon as the Cubs get a look at all these guys to fill out the bullpen ahead of Kimbrel.
Catch all the Cubs Cactus League action on Marquee Sports Network this spring.