Cubs

There's no way the Cubs can take Mike Montgomery out of the rotation

There's no way the Cubs can take Mike Montgomery out of the rotation

Mike Montgomery is a man possessed.

Over the last 7 months, he's made it pretty damn clear he prefers to be a starting pitcher rather than a reliever and he's certainly put his money where his mouth is.

Montgomery tossed another gem Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, keeping the division-leading Brewers offense at bay with only 2 hits, a walk and a lone run in 6 innings. In fact, the only Brewers player to reach base safely was Lorenzo Cain, who had a single, walk and a homer as the only blemish.

With the outing, Montgomery lowered his season ERA to 3.31 and WHIP to 1.08. But his numbers as a starter are even more impressive.

The 28-year-old southpaw has a 1.14 ERA and 0.68 WHIP as a member of the Cubs' rotation in 2018, allowing just 13 hits in 23.2 innings.

His fit in the rotation goes well beyond this season.

Dating back to July 19 of last year, Montgomery has a 1.99 ERA and 0.75 WHIP as a starting pitcher in 58.2 innings spanning 11 outings. He's given up more than one run in only two of those 11 starts. Also in that time, he's allowed just 34 hits, 10 walks and 5 homers — absolutely sparkling numbers.

For perspective, Jon Lester has been on a roll this year but over his last 62.2 innings — during which he has a 1.72 ERA — the Cubs ace has still allowed 40 hits and 20 walks (16 more baserunners in only 4 more innings).

Montgomery is simply the Cubs' best pitcher right now and even if he falters a bit in the next couple starts, his recent track record as a member of the rotation is forcing the Cubs' hand.

How could they possibly throw him back in the bullpen right now?

Montgomery's emergence has been both a good thing and a bad thing for a team that's vying for first place in the National League Central. 

On the one hand, the Cubs badly needed a boost in the rotation and that's exactly what Montgomery has given. On the other hand, what do the Cubs do when Yu Darvish is actually healthy and returns to the rotation?

It's a good problem to have. 

Tyler Chatwood's head-scratching control issues would seem to make him a fit to lose a spot in the rotation, but he's also been turning things around of late and feels like he's made an adjustment that will lead to better results on the field. Plus, do you really want a guy who struggles to throw strikes to be pitching 1 or 2 innings at a time out of the bullpen late in games?

Darvish seems like a lock for the rotation when he comes off the disabled list (whenever that might be). The Cubs invested $126 million and 6 years into Darvish and he has a long track record of being an elite big-league starter (his 11.0 K/9 career rate is the best in MLB history for a starting pitcher).

So who does Montgomery bump out? Or do the Cubs just roll with a 6-man rotation right before or after the All-Star Break?

That's a problem for Future Joe Maddon and Future Theo Epstein. We don't know how that will all play out right now, but one thing's for certain: Mike Montgomery is walking the walk.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Brewers scouting report with Jeff Levering

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Brewers scouting report with Jeff Levering

Luke Stuckmeyer catches up with Brewers radio broadcaster Jeff Levering to get the inside scoop on Milwaukee heading into the 2019 season.

The pair discuss how the potential addition of Craig Kimbrel would impact the Brewers bullpen (3:30), and whether or not Christian Yelich can repeat his MVP performance (8:00), how the NL Central will shake out this year (14:00) before Jeff gives us some personal insight into the great Bob Uecker (19:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

In a surprise move, Cubs option Ian Happ to Triple-A

In a surprise move, Cubs option Ian Happ to Triple-A

In a surprise move, Ian Happ will not be on the Cubs roster on Opening Day.

Joe Maddon told reporters on Saturday afternoon that Happ will begin the season with Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs have since made the move official. Happ debuted with the Cubs in May of 2017 and had been up with the Cubs ever since.

The move means the Cubs will likely start the 2019 season with Albert Almora Jr., Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber as the team's outfielders. Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant can also play in the outfield, but both are expected to be regular starters on the infield. With Addison Russell still serving his suspension, Zobrist is expected to start at second base. Bryant will occupy his regular spot at third, but can also play in the outfield with David Bote filling in at third as needed. Additionally, Daniel Descalso is expected to be ready for Opening Day after enduring a left shoulder injury and gives the team versatility on the infield.

Happ, 24, hit .253/.328/.514 with 24 home runs as a rookie in 2017. Last season his numbers dipped to .233/.353/.408, including .196/.313/.340 after the all-star break. He has played in 257 games in the past two seasons with the Cubs.

Happ has been struggling at the plate this spring. He is hitting .135/.196/.192 in 17 Cactus League games.

"We just want to make sure that he gets down there and really gets a lot of consistent at-bats, especially from the left side," Maddon said. "Obviously we consider him a huge part of our future, but just based on the conclusion of last year and what we're seeing at this point this year, we think it's really important."

Happ's move comes as a surprise, but it may not be a long-term move. With Happ being optioned to Triple-A, that gives the Cubs an extra roster spot that could be used for a reliever.

Additionally, pitchers Dillon Maples and Alec Mills and catcher Taylor Davis were optioned to Triple-A along with Happ. Two non-roster invitees, infielder Cristhian Adames and outfielder Johnny Field, were assigned to minor league camp.

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