Cubs ‘caught by surprise’ at report of Mike Montgomery’s displeasure

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the Cubs openly court more starting pitching this winter, starter-in-waiting Mike Montgomery apparently has become increasingly chafed.

The left-hander who played a major role for the Cubs last year as a reliever and then a productive injury replacement in the rotation wants to be a starter in 2018 or go to another team that will let him start, according to a report by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The report cites a source “close to the pitcher.”

The Cubs say Montgomery has not said anything like that to them.

Montgomery

“That kind of caught me by surprise to be honest with you,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We view him as a starting pitcher. I know he views himself as a starting pitcher. But he’s just a good teammate. He’s been willing to do both. He’s done that really well.

“As far as dialogue this winter, we’ve had no dialogue with Mike whatsoever about that. We view him as a starting pitcher; we know he can do it. But that said, our job is to build up as much depth as possible.”

The day after the season ended, team president Theo Epstein told Chicago media he expected Montgomery to open next season in the bullpen and fill the same swingman role he did the last two seasons.

Then the Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to fill a rotation spot, unsuccessfully made a pitch to Japanese free agent Shohei Otani and have made it no secret they want to acquire one more starter.

“There hasn’t been any dialogue that should have spurred a report like that,” Hoyer said, noting Montgomery’s team-first attitude since joining the team. “You just don’t know where it comes from. But sometimes that happens. Mike’s a great teammate. Obviously, we know he wants to start. We know that some of our position players want to play just one position.

Montgomery, who recorded the final out of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series for his first career save, has made 21 starts for the Cubs in the year and a half since being acquired in a trade from Seattle. He’s 6-6 with a 3.86 ERA in those starts – and has a 2.35 ERA in 72 relief appearances with the Cubs.

“But I think our guys have been really great about doing what’s good for the whole team and the greater good. And our guys don’t complain about it. I think they know they’re fortunate. We’ve won a ton of games the past three years in part because guys have been willing to move around.”

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Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com