Heading into baseball’s home stretch, manager Joe Maddon remains ever mindful of how rest will impact the Cubs’ success as they head for what they hope will be an extended postseason run.
But exactly how Maddon will keep his starting rotation rested but not rusty during a month-long stretch that includes only two off-days remains undetermined. Maddon said Monday that either limiting starters’ innings or pitch count are both options, neither of which he feels will have a negative impact.
“At the end of the day, you’re trying to conserve their moments for the most important time of year,” Maddon said.
President Theo Epstein said Monday in addition to keep an eye on innings and pitch counts, the possibility of throwing a spot start into the mix or adding dedicated sixth starting pitcher has also been discussed.
But for Epstein, the method isn’t nearly as important as is reaching the desired result.
“I don’t think we’re committed to any one way of doing it,” Epstein said. “We just want to make sure we’re putting our guys in a position to be in their physical best going down the stretch.”
Epstein said Maddon’s decision to pull Jason Hammel after only 39 pitches over 2 2/3 Saturday against the Dodgers wasn’t a matter of rest a move to try to win the game. While Maddon said he understands players’ desires to reach individual goals, team needs trump everything else.
Maddon has also kept his position players by working days off in recently for centerfielder Dexter Fowler and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Shortstop Addison Russell was given Monday off as Javier Baez started against the Pirates. Third baseman Kris Bryant will be the next candidate for a scheduled day off, Maddon said.
Epstein isn’t yet ready to unveil the Cubs’ plan for expanding the roster on Thursday, but said it will involve more internal moment than striking an outside deal. While he didn’t rule out external moves, he said it’s not likely to be anything “too hot”.
Among the moves that will take place is Tommy La Stella returning to the Cubs later this week. La Stella caused waves earlier this month when he did not report to Class AAA Iowa after being optioned on July 29. La Stella eventually was sent to AA Tennessee before finally being sent to Iowa in preparation of being brought back up when big-league rosters expand.
“Whoever we’re going to bring up right now, they’re going to be pertinent people that are going to be able to help us win right now,” Maddon said.
Pitcher Jon Lackey (shoulder) threw a side session Monday and is expected to throw one more before he returns to the Cubs’ rotation. Maddon said Lackey hasn’t experienced any setbacks since leaving his scheduled start two weeks ago against the Cardinals with shoulder stiffness.
Relief pitchers Hector Rondon (triceps) and Pedro Strop (torn meniscus) are also making “great progress”, but Maddon remains cautious of bringing them back too quickly.
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