The return of Jon Lester and the continued ascension of Mike Montgomery have complicated the rotation for the final month.
Having too many starting pitchers to choose from, though, is a good problem to have.
“We’re trying to look at the big picture,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Every team we’re playing. And now that you have an extra guy, you can manipulate things a little bit. That’s what we’re working on moving forward.”
The Cubs announced Saturday that Jake Arrieta is scheduled to pitch Monday in Pittsburgh followed by Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Lester and John Lackey.
Montgomery is scheduled to make his last spot start in the series finale Sunday against the Braves, but it may not be his last start of the season.
Maddon said it’s possible Montgomery will start again before the season ends.
“[Montgomery] wants to start,” Maddon said. “He’ll tell you that straight up. I get it. But then he’ll say, ‘Listen, if you need me in the bullpen, I’m fine there, too.’ ”
Montgomery has been superb in two starts in place of Lester, allowing one earned run in 13 innings. He picked up wins in both starts.
Maddon said the starts by Lester and Montgomery on Saturday and Sunday would have no bearing on the rotation moving forward.
Behind the plate
The Cubs offense has survived the absence of catcher Willson Contreras thanks in part to backups Alex Avila and Rene Rivera.
The Cubs acquired both veteran backstops in the past month, and the moves have paid dividends.
Besides their experience, leadership and defensive skills, both have added a solid bat to the back end of the lineup.
“That’s two really good catchers to get at a moment’s notice,” Maddon said.
Rivera started Saturday so that he can become comfortable catching Lester. He hit his first home run — a grand slam off the foul pole in left — in a Cubs uniform in the second inning.
In seven games with the Cubs he has seven hits, five RBI and three walks.
Avila has played 22 games with the Cubs, reaching base at a .370 clip and hitting three homers with 15 RBI.
“They’ve done a nice job, both of them,” Maddon said. “Rene the other day had some really good line drives to the opposite field, and Alex has come up clutch.”
Good company for Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo hit a triple with the bases loaded in the fourth
inning Saturday, giving him 100 RBI so far this season.
Rizzo joins Hack Wilson, Sammy Sosa and Billy Williams as the only players in franchise history to have 30 homers, 30 doubles and 100 RBI three times.
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