Cubs

Mike Montgomery ready to stretch into Cubs’ rotation if needed

Mike Montgomery ready to stretch into Cubs’ rotation if needed

While the Cubs haven’t committed to how they’ll address filling Brett Anderson’s spot in the starting rotation, Mike Montgomery feels ready to start if he gets the call. 

Montgomery threw 52 pitches over 3 2/3 innings May 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies and 45 pitches over three innings against the Phillies May 4, giving him a solid runway to stretch out if he has to start against the Colorado Rockies or St. Louis Cardinals this week. 

“I feel good to go for as long as I’m keeping getting outs and feeling good,” Montgomery, who has a 1.29 ERA in 11 games, said. “I don’t really want to put a limit on something like that.”

The Cubs placed Anderson on the 10-day disabled list Sunday and recalled Justin Grimm from Triple-A Iowa, and could consider Montgomery or right-hander Eddie Butler to take Anderson's turns in the rotation. With off days on May 11 and May 15, though, the Cubs won't necessarily need a fifth starter soon. 

Montgomery was forced into Sunday night's extra-innings game against the New York Yankees, though if the Cubs need a starter Friday in St. Louis, him pitching in relief Sunday may not affect his status for that. Montgomery threw 36 pitches in two shutout innings. 

While Montgomery isn't thinking about a pitch or innings target if he does start, manager Joe Maddon figured the 27-year-old left-hander could “easily” throw 75-80 pitches given his recent workload. Montgomery threw that first extended outing this month in garbage time against the Phillies (the Cubs lost that game, 10-2), then pitched the 10th through the 12th innings in the Cubs’ 5-4 13-inning win three days later. 

That blowout loss to the Phillies fit Maddon’s explanation of how to get a reliever stretched out to start during the season: “Bad games,” he laughed. But Montgomery has done this before, briefly moving from the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen to starting rotation shortly before being traded to the Cubs last July and then for a few starts in August and September. 

Montgomery brought an urgent mentality — like the one he showed with two outs in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series — to those seven starts last year, which he said helped that transition, too. 

If anything, perhaps that approach could help the Cubs’ woeful first inning ERA, which sits at 11.03 after Jon Lester allowed a run in the opening frame of Sunday night’s game against the New York Yankees. 

“I was able to take that into a starting role instead of saying, okay, it’ll take a few innings to get a feel or whatnot,” Montgomery said. “It’s, hey, I’m coming out guns blazing right away and I’m going to give them everything I got right away.”

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo on coronavirus fears: 'More players will opt out'

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo on coronavirus fears: 'More players will opt out'

Here we go again.

Another day of delayed and pending coronavirus tests. Another six Cubs sit out workouts and a scrimmage as a precaution.

Another reason to doubt whether Major League Baseball can shore up the minimum, baseline safety expectation it promised — timely testing — to pull off a 60-game season that involves teams traveling to and from 30 different locations for nine weeks.

“Yeah, I think some more players will opt out,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday as the Cubs and other teams adjusted to yet another day of last-minute personnel and scheduling adjustments because MLB’s every-other-day testing process continues to produce gaps, delays and flaws with results.

“There’s definitely a level of fire drill some mornings,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

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Neither Ross nor Rizzo pointed fingers at MLB or anyone else, Ross again pointing out this is a first-in-history undertaking. And both said they expected the system to improve.

But to Rizzo’s original point, as each day of training camp passes through the hourglass toward next week’s openers without a solution so, too, it seems more players are likely to pass on playing at all.

Thirteen already have opted out, including Giants star Buster Posey and former Cy Young winners David Price and Felix Hernandez — none of those with a pre-existing condition that puts him at higher risk.

MORE: Tracking MLB players who have opted out or declined to play

Many other high-profile players throughout the majors, including Angels superstar Mike Trout and the Cubs’ Yu Darvish say they haven’t ruled out joining the 13, depending on what they see from health and safety conditions as this progresses.

“We didn’t sign up for these bad protocols as far as testing,” said Rizzo, already sidelined with a bad back. “The biggest thing for us is the safety.

“Listen, we are in a pandemic. We are all at risk,” he added. “We all want to play baseball because that’s what we love to do, and we have an opportunity to bring joy to a lot of people that are home, through these tough times.

“But we are all human. If guys start testing positive left and right and this gets out of control, I’m sure you’ll see some guys opt out.”

Darvish said over the weekend that he was prepared to go home if he didn’t like what he saw from a safety standpoint with the Cubs — who so far have been the only team in the league yet to have a player test positive since intake testing.

But he also said, “I’m still concerned.” And it’s hard to imagine that continued delays and uncertainties within the testing process will ease that concern as teams begin to travel out of their bubbles next week.

“Credit to all of our guys for the most part coming in and staying safe,” Rizzo said. “Obviously you can’t control [everything]. You go pick up something at the grocery store and you get it, you can’t control that. But being as safe as you can away [from the park is key].

“Generally, a lot of people want to play, and that’s what we want to do, and it’s just about staying safe.”

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6 Cubs sit out Wednesday's activities due to another COVID-19 testing delay

6 Cubs sit out Wednesday's activities due to another COVID-19 testing delay

Six Cubs players will miss Wednesday’s intrasquad game as they wait for results from Monday’s COVID-19 testing.

It’s the second time this week multiple Tier 1 members of the Cubs — which includes players and coaches — have missed team activities while waiting for test results. Manager David Ross and five other Tier 1 Cubs did not participate in Monday’s activities after Saturday’s results came back pending and required retests.

Ross has preached patience throughout Summer Camp as Major League Baseball works through its early testing hiccups, repeating that message on Wednesday.

“This not easy — I think I've said that a million times — it’s not easy on the players, it's not easy on Major League Baseball,” Ross told reporters. “I don't think it's anybody's fault that things are delayed. 

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“If you want to point fingers, we’re focusing on the wrong task. We've got to focus on, as the Chicago Cubs, doing the best work we can when we're on that field and controlling what we can control, and testing is not in our control. To be frustrated is just a waste of energy for me.” 

Because of the delay, Robel Garcia, Christopher Morel, Brennen Davis and Miguel Amaya joined the Cubs from their South Bend alternate training site for Wednesday’s scrimmage.

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