According to Jesse Rogers, the Cubs could be setting Jon Lester up to be the Game 1 starter in the NLDS.
Jon Lester will pitch on Wednesday against the Cardinals as the Cubs are lining him up for 4 more starts and a potential Game 1 of the playoffs though the team is still far from announcing anything. Lester is also in line to reach 200 innings, a much coveted number for him. He’ll need to average 6 innings per start the rest of the season as he’s thrown 176 innings so far.
If I were a betting man, I’d wager we’ll see them line up Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey behind Lester. The team hasn’t made any further announcements about plans for the rotation, but we can assume from the information Rogers shared that we’ve probably seen the end of the six-man rotation. Or, rather, we’ll see its demise very shortly.
In order to get four more starts for Lester, the Cubs would have to get back to a more standard setup. We may see one more start from Mike Montgomery, who was the presumable Wednesday starter prior to the recent announcement. If Montgomery pitches Thursday and all things remain stable, Lester’s last start would be Saturday, October 1 in Cincy. If Montgomery’s time in the rotation is done, Lester would conclude his regular season on Friday, September 30.
My guess is that we do see one more start from the lefty swingman, as that would allow Arrieta to go Friday in Milwaukee on five days of rest. Lackey and Arrieta just flip-flopped in the rotation this weekend, so I could see Joe Maddon giving the elder starter a little more of a break this next time through. That would serve the dual purpose of providing ample rest to the starters and lining up the rotation in the order we’ll likely see in the postseason.
Just so we’re on the same page, I’m going with the following setup from September 11 on: Arrieta, Hendricks, Hammel, Lester, Montgomery, Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey, Hammel. From that point, it would continue with Montgomery moving back to the bullpen. The NLDS begins on Friday, October 7, which means Lester and Arrieta would be going on six days of rest for the first two games. Hendricks and Lackey would have an even longer reprieve.
That’s just my initial reaction to the news. We’ll see how it all breaks down here over the next couple weeks.