Cubs

Mike Montgomery tries to force Cubs into tough decision once Yu Darvish healthy

ST. LOUIS – Mike Montgomery, whose performance since joining the Cubs’ rotation has been one of the team’s top success stories this season, said he was encouraged to hear general manager Jed Hoyer suggest the left-hander might have a chance to keep his starting role even when injured Yu Darvish returns from the disabled list.

“It’s just about not getting to far ahead of myself,” said Montgomery, who publicly lobbied, unsuccessfully, during the winter for a chance to win a job in the starting five out of spring training.

He is 2-1 with a 1.14 ERA in four starts since joining the rotation in place of the injured Yu Darvish (triceps).

“They’re going to make those decisions,” said Montgomery, who makes his fifth start Tuesday against the Dodgers. “I’m just trying to keep my head down and help the team win some ballgames.”

Montgomery is trying not to gaze too far into the future when it comes to his starting opportunity.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has said from the start that Montgomery would return to the bullpen once the original five was at full strength again. But in the wake of Montgomery’s success, Hoyer significantly softened the team’s stance Friday.

“We’ll use common sense,” Hoyer said. “This guy’s pitching so incredibly well. All he’s done is taken that opportunity and done all you can with it. We’re obviously going to keep that in mind.

“I’d be careful not to take what I said and turn it into someone losing a rotation spot, either,” the GM added. “We have the ability to do many different things. But I would say we’ve noticed what Mike’s done.”

Montgomery said he’s focusing only on his five-day routine, staying healthy, staying sharp, and not looking ahead.

“Obviously, I want to make it a hard decision if they send me back to the bullpen,” he said. “But that’s out of my control.”

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Darvish progress

Meanwhile, Darvish takes a major step Tuesday in his recovery when he’s scheduled to throw a live batting practice session to Cubs hitters before their game against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

Darvish (1-3, 4.95) has thrown two bullpen sessions, including Friday in St. Louis, and said last week he hopes to return from the disabled list before the All-Star break in a month.

He last pitched four weeks ago.