Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday night at Wrigley Field, a no brainer for manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs brain trust.
Game 2? That’s a bit less certain, although the assignment will likely go to Kyle Hendricks because Maddon likes the way Lester and Hendricks profile for pitching at home. It could also depend on whether Hendricks, who tested his right forearm and threw well during a side session with pitching coach Chris Bosio Thursday at Wrigley, will be 100 percent.
“He’s doing well,’’ Maddon said. “Bos said he felt good today. We’ll just find out where Kyle is [Friday]. Making sure he’s healthy. You always wait a little to see if there is any after effect from that and then you make your determination.’’
Jake Arrieta, who started Game 3 in the NLDS, would be the likely choice for game 2 if it’s not Hendricks. The Games 2 and 3 starters also lineup up for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.
New rosters are set series by series, and the Cubs are again debating whether to take 11 or 12 pitchers. They might go with 12 this time, and the decision on which bench player to leave off could depend on the opponent’s left-handed and right-handed pitching splits, which could leave Tommy La Stella off.
With another low scoring series expected, a premium could be placed on defense, which means outfielder Albert Almora has a good chance to stick.
“Certainly, no one played themselves off the roster,’’ Hoyer said. “If we have to make changes it’s because we have to go with a different mix.’’
Right-handers Joe Smith and Trevor Cahill are possible additions to the pitching staff.
“We debated 11 pitchers vs. 12 a lot before that last series,’’ Hoyer said, “and I’m sure that’ll be the same debate. Which way we end up going I’m not sure.
“There were moments [in the NLDS] that you were glad you had the extra position player. There were moments you wanted the extra pitcher.’’
A mulligan for Lackey
Maddon chalked up the performance of veteran John Lackey, who didn’t get past the fourth inning in Game 4, to rust. Lackey hadn’t pitched in 14 days.
“He’s healthy and well but didn’t execute, probably because he hadn’t pitched in a while,’’ Maddon said. “I felt good that the numbers matched up – velocity, fastball, breaking ball were all there.’’
This and that
Each of the first five games of the NLCS will start at 7:08 p.m. Central, Major League Baseball announced Thursday. The games will be televised on FoxSports1. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) are to be announced.
*The Cubs held a light workout Thursday and will work out again Friday at Wrigley Field.