Will Cubs push Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta on short rest in NLCS?


Will Cubs push Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta on short rest in NLCS?

Maybe this becomes an even more desperate situation and the Cubs call an audible.

But from manager Joe Maddon to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, the Cubs don’t sound eager to rush Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta back into the National League Championship Series. That means their two best pitchers might have fired their last bullets in 2015.

The New York Mets beat Lester and Arrieta over the weekend at Citi Field, forcing the Cubs to win four of the next five games in order to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

Kyle Hendricks vs. Jacob deGrom isn’t a great matchup for the Cubs in Game 3 on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and they won’t publicly commit to their pitching plans for the rest of this series, though it’s probably Jason Hammel on a short leash in Game 4 with Wednesday turning into a bullpen night.

“I don’t think we have to answer that right now,” Epstein said after Monday’s workout. “Unless it’s extraordinary circumstances, we don’t really love the track record of pitchers pitching on short rest. Sometimes there are extraordinary circumstances where it makes sense. But as a rule, it’s not something that we like to do.”

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Lester is a creature of habit who hasn’t quite looked like a two-time World Series champion during this postseason run (0-2, 4.50 ERA), not winning the games the Cubs had in mind when they gave him a six-year, $155 million megadeal.

Arrieta is a leading contender for the Cy Young Award after a brilliant regular season (22-6, 1.77 ERA), and Cubs fans will always remember that complete-game shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in an emotional wild-card victory.

But Arrieta hasn’t finished the sixth inning in either of his last two playoff starts, giving up eight runs combined and readjusting expectations that had become unrealistic. He has now accounted for almost 249 innings during this breakthrough season.

“Obviously, we’re aware of how much he’s thrown this year, what he’s done for us and how much has gone into it,” Epstein said. “But as he said, he doesn’t know and he feels fine, so I wouldn’t put it past him to show up next time and dominate.

“He missed April last year (with a shoulder issue). Now he’s getting an additional month on top of the month he missed last year, so there’s a significant tick-up in innings, and that’s something that you monitor and factor in. But we trust Jake as a pitcher and as a person.

“I wouldn’t say that this year I’ve ever used the word ‘concerned’ and ‘Jake Arrieta’ in the same sentence.”

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of


Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here:

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Remember that one time Sammy Sosa threw out his back while sneezing? Well, Brandon Morrow may have topped that on the Cubs all-time list of wacky injuries.

The 33-year-old closer was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game after hurting his back while taking his pants off upon returning from the team's road trip to St. Louis. It's being labeled as "lower back tightness."

"It's frustrating any time you can't get out there, and especially when you can't go because of something stupid like taking your pants off," Morrow told reporters on Tuesday.

And that's put the Cubs pitching staff in a tough spot for the rest of the week, given Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers is the third game in a little more than 24 hours for the Cubs.

"I don't want to downplay anything," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Obviously he had back spams, he had the same thing in spring training. We'll start treating it the same way we did in spring training; I think he was out about a week to 10 days. If things go as we hope, I think it'd be the kind of thing where he'd probably be able to be throwing before the 10 days is up.

"But we felt like it wasn't going to be something where he was ready this weekend and if he's not going to be ready all weekend, we can already backdate it three days so it made sense to put him on the DL."

Morrow is tied for fifth in the National League with 16 saves and owns a 1.59 ERA is 26 relief appearances this season. Justin Hancock, who served as the 26th man during Tuesday's doubleheader, stayed with the team as a result.