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Wait’ll next week: Cubs top starters to be eased into spring rotation

MESA, Ariz. – If you want to see the big-money starters pitch for the Cubs this spring, save your Cactus League bucks for sometime late next week.

Coming off a playoff-lengthened season and sensitive to veteran starters’ workloads, the Cubs pushed the spring openers for Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey into the second natural turn through the rotation.

Travis Wood starts Thursday’s opener against the Brewers (with Kyle Hendricks piggybacking in that game), with prospect Pierce Johnson and swingmen Trevor Cahill and Adam Warren scheduled to start Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Last year, Lester pitched the second day of the spring season. Admittedly pushing too hard after signing a $155 million contract in the offseason, Lester suffered a dead-arm period that hampered him through much of April.

Manager Joe Maddon said the gradual flow into the front-end starters’ spring game workload won’t keep them from getting a normal innings load of preparation for the season.

Maddon also said the short relievers coming off the heaviest workloads – in particular closer Hector Rondon and setup man Pedro Strop – will have their spring appearances cut back.

“But by the time they get there to the opening bell, they’ll be ready, and hopefully they’ll be well,” Maddon said.