Cubs News

With postseason approaching, Cubs pitching picture coming into focus

4 years agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs learned Tuesday afternoon of MLB’s playoff schedule and the taxing nature of this year’s postseason.

The National League Wild Card round begins on Sept. 30 in a best-of-three series on three consecutive days. The NLDS will begin Oct. 6 and run for five days straight, followed by an off day, then the NLCS begins on Oct. 12. The NLCS also will run for 7 straight days, with an off day before the World Series kicks off on October 20.

In years past, the NLDS and NLCS had two off-days built in for travel, but that won’t be necessary this year because of the bubble format MLB is implementing. 

While the excitement for October is budding, David Ross is focused on the here and now but is well aware of the potential for a grueling, tiring postseason.

“When you have these series with no days off, I think it’s gonna test the depth of everybody’s team for sure,” Ross admitted.

That means the Cubs, like any of the other 15 teams that qualify for this season’s expanded postseason, are going to need a fully healthy and rested pitching staff – starters and bullpen. And, as of right now, they look like they might be getting close to that.

Before Tuesday’s series opener against Cleveland, Ross announced that José Quintana threw a bullpen session Monday and will throw another Wednesday before he throws a simulated game later in the week. Andrew Chafin, who the team acquired at the trade deadline from Arizona, throws a sim game on Wednesday.

A return doesn’t seem as close for Tyler Chatwood, though. Chatwood suffered a setback and his elbow/forearm “didn’t feel good” per Ross.

“I think he was trying to push himself to be back as soon as he possibly could, with knowing the timeframe of which the season is squeezed into and where he was,” Ross said. “His heart, I think, was pushing him one way, but his body was telling him to hold back.”

While the news seems grim on Chatwood, Ross wasn’t ready to label the injury season-ending.

“I would say there’s definitely a lot of caution,” Ross said. “I’m not saying there’s not a scenario where we’re in the World Series and he’s in the bullpen.

“Things can change from now until then. Right now, he’s on the shelf for a little bit.”

When Quintana does return, Ross expects to use him out of the bullpen, most likely in clean-inning situations, much like he did when the veteran lefty returned from his thumb laceration in August.

The top of the rotation looks set with Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks as anchors. Jon Lester seemed to turn a corner and said as much after his start Friday night in Milwaukee and Alec Mills is the NL Player of the Week after 15 shutout innings, including a no-hitter.

In a normal season, that probably means Quintana would exclusively be a bullpen arm, given the preference for a 4-man rotation in the standard postseason. But in this one-off postseason format where there’s a potential for 7 straight games, teams might be forced to turn to a 5-man rotation. That might mean Quintana could be an option to start in October. 

With the playoffs two weeks away, the Cubs bullpen has been firing on all cylinders. The relievers hold an MLB-best 0.98 WHIP since Sept. 1 and a 1.89 ERA, the second-best mark in baseball behind San Diego. 

But adding more pitching depth in Quintana and Chafin is never a bad thing.

“We’ll see how [Quintana] continues to build and stretch him out,” Ross said. “[We’ll] see how [Chafin] looks and how the lefties are continuing to throw and try to assess who will be in the bullpen moving forward and then what kinda depth we need from the starting situation.”

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