John Lackey on possible six-man rotation: ‘I just work here, man’

PEORIA, Ariz. — John Lackey stood in the visitor’s locker room at Peoria Stadium, his feet bare, his right arm and shoulder entombed in ice, notebooks and recorders in his face. How many times had he done this old drill?

“Hell, I don’t know, I think I’ve made close to 500 starts [actually, 416] in the regular season,” he said after getting in three innings of work in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory over the Padres. “So maybe a thousand times?”

The rhythms of being a starting pitcher are engrained in the 38-year-old right-hander, who’s entering his 15th major league season. But manager Joe Maddon has a mind to throw off the routines of Lackey and his fellow starters just a bit by occasionally starting Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery — the “co-No. 5 starters” — in a six-man rotation.

It would save some wear and tear on Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Lackey over the course of the season, which Lackey acknowledges could be a good thing. On the other hand, he also said it could be a “disruption.”

It ain't this old dude's first rodeo. (Photo by John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

“Starters, we like our routines. We like to know what we’re doing every five games.”

If Lackey, potentially in his last season with the Cubs — and maybe of his career — were bumped off his routine and felt his preparation and performance were adversely affected, would he try to persuade Maddon to change his mind?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just work here, man.”

The Bryant of old?

Reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant has been working, with much success, on regaining his opposite-field stroke. He was out of the lineup on Monday, but homered to right-center the day before — a blast from the past, as some in the Cubs organization see it.

“That’s what he was when he first came up in the minor leagues — that’s all I heard about, him hitting home runs to right-center,” Maddon said. “And [since] then, everything has been on the pull side. This is good. It’s nice. If he gets that back in his game, it just makes him more difficult to pitch to.”

Monday moves

The Cubs have gotten a little closer to their 25-man Opening Day roster.

Pitcher Maikel Cleto was released Monday and nine other players — all pitchers — were assigned to minor league camp, reducing the team’s spring roster from 60 to 50.

Optioned to AAA Iowa: Aaron Brooks, Jose Rosario and Jack Leathersich. To AA Tennessee: Duane Underwood Jr. Seth Frankoff, Casey Kelly, Jhondaniel Medina, Conor Mullee and Zac Rosscup also were affected.

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