Taking the 5th: Cubs close to naming Brett Anderson to rotation

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Brett Anderson

MESA, Ariz. — Barring a setback in the next two weeks, count on Brett Anderson opening the season as the Cubs’ fifth starter, with Mike Montgomery in the bullpen in a long-relief/spot-starter role.

Manager Joe Maddon has refer-red to the Anderson-Montgomery situation as less of a battle for the fifth spot and more of a “hybrid” plan that involves an occasional sixth starter.

On Monday, Maddon said he soon will have to announce which of the two left-handers will join the rotation. He also acknowledged the near impossibility that Anderson would open the season in the -bullpen.

When healthy and at full strength, Anderson never has been a reliever in his professional career. And injuries that required nine stints on the disabled list since 2010 — including back surgery twice — have led to a regular maintenance program that requires lengthy prep and warmup time before pitching.

“It’d be more difficult, there’s no question,” Maddon said. “I can’t deny that. You look at the makeup of the player, the pitchers themselves, it’s pretty obvious the one guy’s more suited to start and the other guy’s more of a hybrid.

“We wanted to give it a fair look all camp, and we’ve been doing that. And we’re getting close to having to make that final decision.”

Montgomery, who was expected to get the first shot at the No. 5 spot until the Cubs signed Anderson on Jan. 26, said he’s fine with whatever is decided.

“I’ll just be ready for anything because I actually like that role, which is starting, reliever, whatever” he said. “Try to embrace that.”

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