Kyle Hendricks being named the Cubs’ Opening Day starter was the worst-kept secret in professional sports, or at least beyond the North Side of Chicago, but the rest of the rotation remains in flux. David Ross clarified much of that Thursday when he named Jake Arrieta his No. 2, followed by Zach Davies. Trevor Williams is the presumptive fourth starter, then there are another two or three pitchers vying for the other spot.
Narrowing it down to five isn’t all that necessary, as we know the Cubs will end up using more starters than usual this season even if everyone stays healthy. Adbert Alzolay is easily one of their five most talented starters, but he’s also never pitched as many as 121 innings in a season and will need to swing to the bullpen from time to time. That will be made possible by a recent ruling that the Cubs still hold a minor league option on the righty.
Shelby Miller has been impressive as well and has his own track record as a would-be ace with durability issues, though Ross figures to use him as something of a Swiss Army knife this season. That means Alec Mills is probably the de facto No. 5 for the time being. Again, this is all subject to change based on either performance or simple necessity.
Ross on Rex Brothers: I truly believe he’s put his struggles behind him and is ready to impact our ball club in a big way #Cubs
— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) March 25, 2021
In other pitching news, it sounds as though lefty Rex Brothers has earned a spot in the bullpen. How they make room for him on the 40-man roster is yet to be seen, though Alzolay being optioned would open a spot on the 26-man big league roster. Backup catcher Austin Romine may not be ready to go right away either, nor will reliever Rowan Wick.
Ross is going to have a lot of very difficult decisions ahead of him as spring training winds down, so finding procedural loopholes might be more important than in most seasons.