Cubs

With Cubs' rotation still in flux, Mike Montgomery reportedly wants to start or go somewhere else

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USA TODAY

With Cubs' rotation still in flux, Mike Montgomery reportedly wants to start or go somewhere else

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Cubs' starting rotation has yet to be finalized for 2018. But if they want Mike Montgomery to hang around, they might want to think about putting him in that five-man staff.

According to a Tuesday night report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Montgomery wants to start with the Cubs or go somewhere where he can start. The Cubs have used Montgomery as a swingman the past two seasons, plugging him in as a starter when another starter got hurt and also using him in various roles out of the bullpen.

The somewhat complex wording of that tweet makes it seem like Montgomery isn't exactly demanding a trade or anything like that, but his desire to be a big league starter seems strong.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer was asked about the report Tuesday night and admitted it took him by surprise.

“That kind of caught me by surprise, to be honest with you," Hoyer told reporters after while discussing the team's deals with free agents Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly. "We view him as a starting pitcher. I know views himself as a starting pitcher. But he’s a good teammate. He’s been willing to do both, and I think he’s done that really well.

"But as far as a dialogue this winter, we’ve had no dialogue with Mike whatsoever about that. Like I said, we view him as a starting pitcher, we know he can do it. But our job is to build up as much depth as possible. As far as the dialogue, there’s nothing going on between us. We just like having him.”

As for what the Cubs will settle on remains to be seen as the rest of the offseason plays out. They lost Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to free agency, creating a couple big holes in the rotation, but they've since added Tyler Chatwood on a free-agent deal and have been connected to other pitchers such as Alex Cobb.

Montgomery started 14 games last season, posting a 4.15 ERA as a starter. As a reliever, he had a 2.49 ERA in 61.1 innings of work out of the bullpen.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has always talked glowingly about Montgomery and has suggested he could be a full-time starter in the past.

Hoyer credited Montgomery's versatility Tuesday, comparing it to the versatility of position players like Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist.

"Like I said, Mike’s a great teammate," Hoyer said. "Obviously we know he wants to start. We know that some of our position players want to just play one position. I think our guys have been really great about doing what’s good for the whole team and sort of kind of the greater good. And our guys don’t complain about it.

"We’re fortunate. We’ve won a ton of games the last three years in part because guys have been willing to move around. In some ways I look at Mike the way you might look at a guy like Javy or like Ben Zobrist. He’s been really versatile, and that’s part of what makes him really good.”

Again, even if the Cubs fill their starting rotation with guys not named Montgomery, it doesn't mean Montgomery won't be in the bullpen next season. But for a guy under team control for another four years, it's interesting to see how both Montgomery and the Cubs react if he doesn't get a rotation spot.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 4th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 4th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa went more than a week in between dingers in 1998, breaking that drought with his fourth homer of the season April 23 at Wrigley Field against the the San Diego Padres.

Sosa's solo shot was the only run the Cubs scored in a 4-1 loss and it came to kick off the bottom of the 9th inning off San Diego reliever Dan Miceli. The blast went 420 feet to right field.

It was Sosa's third hit of the game and the Cubs' only extra-base hit.

Fun fact: Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman came on to finish the game in the ninth inning, picking up his sixth save. Hoffman finished the '98 campaign with a league-leading 53 saves.

Albert Almora Jr. was all over the Coors Field outfield

Albert Almora Jr. was all over the Coors Field outfield

Coors Field is 415 feet in dead center. That makes it one of the biggest outfields in the majors.

Albert Almora Jr. was busy covering a ton of that big outfield in a three-game series. A day after immitating Willie Mays, Almora made a trio of tough catches in Sunday's series finale.

In the first inning he tracked to his right and leaped to make a grab to rob Nolan Arenado of extra bases and an RBI. The next inning he robbed Noel Cuevas in a near carbon copy of the previous catch.

In the ninth, Charlie Blackman hit a ball deep into the gap, but Almora showed his range by getting to the ball just a few steps before the wall. He made the catch part look easy, even if crashing into the wall wasn't his most graceful moment.

That play ended up being huge considering the tight finish in the ninth inning. The Rockies had the bases loaded before Arenado was tagged out at home following a wild pitch. Arenado was originally called safe, but was called out after the umps looked on replay. Had Blackman reached to lead off the inning, the 9-7 final could have been very different.

Watch all three catches in the video above.