Taking the 5th: Cubs close to naming Brett Anderson to rotation

MESA, Ariz. – Barring a setback in the next two weeks, count on Brett Anderson opening the season as the Cubs’ fifth starter, with Mike Montgomery in the bullpen in a long-relief/spot-starter role.

Manager Joe Maddon has referred to the Montgomery-Anderson situation this spring as less a battle for the fifth spot than part of a “hybrid” plan that involves an occasional sixth starter.

On Monday the manager said he’ll soon have to announce the decision on which of the two left-handers will in the rotation as the fifth starter – and acknowledged the near impossibility that Anderson would open the season in the bullpen.

When healthy and at full strength, Anderson never has been a reliever in his professional career. And injuries that required nine disabled list stretches since 2010 – including back surgery twice – have led to a regular health maintenance program that means lengthy prep time and warmup time before pitching.

“It’d be more difficult, there’s no question. No question,” Maddon said. “I can’t deny that. You look at the makeup of the player, the pitchers themselves, it’s pretty obvious the one guy’s more suited to start and the other guy’s more of a hybrid, absolutely.

“We wanted to give it a fair look all camp, and we’ve been doing that I think. And we’re getting close to having to make that final decision.”

Montgomery, who was expected to get the first shot at the fifth starter job until the Cubs signed the free agent Anderson in late January, said he’s fine with whatever the staff decides.

“I’ll just be ready for anything,” he said, “because I actually like that role, which is starting, reliever, whatever. Try to embrace that.”


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