Cubs' Montgomery, Anderson duking it out for fifth-starter spot
Maybe the best way to describe the Chicago Cubs' relationship status with their fifth starting pitcher is that "it's complicated."
The first step in that situation happened Saturday when left-hander Mike Montgomery started and pitched 1 inning of the Cubs' Cactus League opener, a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics at Sloan Park.
Montgomery theoretically is battling with fellow lefty Brett Anderson for the fifth spot. Anderson pitches Monday against the White Sox.
So is it a battle or not?
"It is and it isn't," said manager Joe Maddon. "We like them both. Yes, watching them this camp will be somewhat important. But we have a pretty good idea what we feel about both of them. Anderson's been really impressive. The big thing with both of them, if I could explain this properly, neither one has really been stretched out anywhere close to 200 innings over the last couple of years.
"It's almost like a hybrid moment. Maybe fold one back into the bullpen for a bit while the other one starts and vice versa. Or just jump a sixth guy in there now and then to keep the other guys from being overworked too early while you're still giving these guys some work. We talked about it. It's in theory right now. We haven't actually laid it down on paper."
Either Montgomery or Anderson will open the season in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lackey, providing all are healthy. The "loser" of the fifth-starter's derby likely will head to the bullpen.
But Maddon does like to trot out a sixth starter at various points of the season, so either Montgomery or Anderson could fill that role from time to time.
"With my mentality, just come in as a starter, get in that routine and just physically prepare for that," Montgomery said after his start. "Yeah, there's a lot of different possibilities they could go with, but for me it's just continue to build my arm strength and just get my timing down, mechanics down. That way I'm ready to go and do whatever it is that they need me to."
Meanwhile, in Scottsdale:
In Saturday's other split-squad game, the Cubs fell 8-6 to the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale. Kyle Schwarber led off, played left field and went 0-for-2. Lefty Rob Zastryzny started and pitched 1 innings.
Javier Baez was 2-for-3, with a double.
World Series memories:
The leadoff batter for Oakland on Saturday was Rajai Davis. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Davis hit a 2-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs. That tied the game at 6-6 before the Cubs eventually went on to win 8-7 in 10 innings.
On Sunday, the Cubs will host the Indians at Sloan Park. Davis heard some boos as he led off the game, but the Sloan Park crowd took it easy on him after that.
"It is what it is, and it was what it was," said Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, who led off Saturday for his team and went 0-for-3. "As players we're all enjoying this ride and a new journey. I was surprised he (Davis) didn't get booed more. That's just how our fans are. They're fun like that. They have fun with the game.
"They acknowledged him. That's pretty cool for Cubs fans to boo you or any fans to boo you from last year in the World Series. That's kind of an honor, I would say, to be on that side of things. That means you're doing something great."