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The back end of the Cubs starting rotation is coming into focus ahead of Friday’s Opening Day against the Brewers.

Cubs manager David Ross said Tuesday “as of right now,” Jon Lester will be the No. 4 starting pitcher. The lefty won’t be piggybacked by presumptive fifth starter Alec Mills in Wednesday’s exhibition against the Twins as originally planned, allowing the Cubs to get more looks at their relievers.

This lines Lester up to start on Monday, the first of a four-game set against the Reds. Mills will throw live batting practice Wednesday, lining him up to start Tuesday.

Ross said Tuesday the Cubs want to stretch Lester out as far as they can without risking injury, listening to the veteran lefty on how his body feels. Lester threw three innings in his last intrasquad outing and began live pitching later than other Cubs starters during baseball’s shutdown to preserve his arm.

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“Jon’s gonna start as long as he's healthy," Ross said. "We've got a plan in place for him with [Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy] and pitch counts and we’ll try to monitor that again every day as we continue to build him up."

Ross implied Monday that Tyler Chatwood will open as the Cubs third starter, which lines him up to start on Sunday, following Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish in the rotation. He pitched in Tuesday’s simulated game and Ross highlighted the performance of Chatwood's sinker.


"Good, Chatty looked good, felt good, had some depth to his sinker," Ross said. "Said he had felt a little bit like it was more of a runner lately out on the mound today. He got some real good depth to that, felt like he could manipulate the ball both sides."