Cubs’ Mike Montgomery first option for Saturday start; top prospect in wings

ATLANTA — Left-hander Mike Montgomery has “earned” the right to start when the Cubs need a sixth starter for Saturday’s doubleheader in Cincinnati, manager Joe Maddon said.

But top-prospect Adbert Alzolay, whose spot in AAA Iowa’s rotation falls on Saturday, is waiting in the wings for a possible major-league debut if the Montgomery plans fall through because of a need to use him out of the bullpen Thursday or Friday.

“It is a natural,” Maddon said of Alzolay (2-2, 4.10 ERA at Iowa). “The first part is getting Monty set up, and if we can’t, then we’ve got to go to a backup.”

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To that end, Montgomery pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Yu Darvish Tuesday in Atlanta, two days after pitching 1 1/3 innings at home against the White Sox. That could stretch him enough to have him ready for Saturday.

“Monty’s earned the right to do this also,” Maddon added. “He’s throwing the ball as well as I’ve seen him. We’re just going to play it straight and see what happens.”

Montgomery, in his third season as a relief-starting swingman for the Cubs, expressed displeasure during the off-season over the Cubs essentially pulling his chance to battle for a starting job in camp by signing established starters to multi-year deals.

The well-liked Montgomery has kept his focus on his bullpen role this season but made his feelings clear about Saturday when talking with Maddon.

“I told him I want to start,” he said. “He basically said we’ll see how the next week goes and how much I pitch in these next two games. But I told him I’m feeling good, ready to go.”