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Cubs set rotation for opening series against the Pirates

Right-hander Jake Arrieta will pitch Game 2 and Zach Davies pitch Game 3 of the three-game set against Pittsburgh.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs’ starting rotation is set for the opening series against the Pirates. Manager David Ross announced Thursday that right-hander Jake Arrieta will start Game 2 against the Pirates, with Zach Davies taking the ball for Game 3.

Kyle Hendricks was named the Opening Day starter Tuesday. Right-hander Trevor Williams would likely get his first start against the Brewers on April 5.

The rotation has been one of the bright spots for the Cubs, and after entering spring training with several questions, the group has put together a strong camp heading into the regular season.

The back of the bullpen is still in flux, and the fifth-starter competition hasn’t been decided. Right-hander Alec Mills has pitched well this spring, and with the team learning this week that they will have a fourth minor-league option on Adbert Alzolay, the young right-hander will likely begin the season at the alternate site.

Right-hander Shelby Miller also might have done enough to pitch his way onto the roster.

“There’s a number of guys in that clubhouse that I could see performing at a high level for us at some point during the season,” Arrieta said. “Whether we’re going to five-man rotation and we throw another guy in there occasionally. We have a long guy or a guy who can make spot starts in the bullpen. There’s a lot of weapons.”

Workload management won’t only be something to watch for Alzolay, but for the rest of the rotation going from 60 games to a full 162 this season. But while Ross is mindful of his starters’ workload, he’ll still let their performance dictate who gets the ball.

“I let these guys go,” Ross said. “I have a lot of confidence in the group we have, so I think the game tells you a lot. Their performance throughout the game tells you a lot and what the matchups are. That’s my job. I want them to go out and compete. I think the good starting pitchers that I’ve been around, when they take the bump and get ready to throw that first pitch there, their goal is to go nine and throw a no hitter.

“I know those guys are competing right up until I come out there and take the ball from them or they end an inning and I tell them they’re done. I want them to keep that mindset. I don’t ever want them to go out with anything less than being the best version of themselves that day and dominating that lineup across the way and it’s my job to go take the ball when I think it’s right.”