By Jay Cohen
Competition for the opening began in earnest Saturday when Montgomery worked a scoreless inning against Oakland in the home half of Chicago’s split-squad games in its first spring training action. Anderson pitches on Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
But manager Joe Maddon made it sound as if each of the left-handers will get plenty of work no matter what happens with the spot.
“The big thing with both of them, OK, if I can explain this properly, neither one has really been stretched out anywhere close to 200 innings over the last couple years,” Maddon said. “So we’re thinking like it’s almost like a hybrid moment. You know, maybe fold one back into the bullpen for a bit while the other one starts and vice versa, or just jump a sixth guy in there now and then to keep the other guys from being overworked too early while you’re still giving these guys some work.
“So we talked about it. It’s in theory right now. We haven’t actually laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. If everybody stays healthy, you got six guys that you like right there. That’s hard for anybody to say that.”
The Cubs acquired Montgomery in a trade with Seattle last July, parting with first baseman prospect Dan Vogelbach in the deal. He made five starts and 12 relief appearances for Chicago down the stretch, finishing with a 1-1 record and a 2.82 ERA.
Montgomery got the save in Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland, retiring Michael Martinez on a bouncer to third for Chicago’s first title since 1908. He was back on the mound for one of the Cubs’ exhibition openers, this time as a starter.
“Pretty cool. Definitely an honor, you know, both of those situations,” he said. “Just looking forward to really just keeping this moment going in spring. It’s fun. You get back out in front of hitters, in front of the crowd. It’s different. You can’t simulate that in bullpens.”
Montgomery walked leadoff hitter Rajai Davis, who hit a big two-run homer for the Indians in Game 7. He also walked Matt Joyce with one down before striking out Mark Canha and retiring Stephen Vogt on a fly ball to right to end the inning.
“Definitely got some stuff to work on,” Montgomery said. “A little erratic. … Just continue to build up the arm strength and just being here in spring training will be good. But good to get it out of the way.”
Montgomery broke into the majors with Seattle in 2015 and threw two shutouts while making 16 starts for the Mariners. He has a 3.51 ERA in 190 career innings.
“I think he’s like a 10-plus game winner on an annual basis as a starter,” Maddon said before Chicago’s 4-3 win over Oakland. “I think he definitely has that within his abilities. I’ve told him that, 10 to 15 games is within his abilities, no doubt. That comes (with) fastball command and then knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He’s got really high-quality stuff. His stuff is really that good.”
Anderson agreed to a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Cubs during the offseason. He went 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA in a career-high 31 starts in 2015, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers win the NL West title. But he was hampered by injuries last year, a recurring problem during his eight big league seasons.
“We like them both,” Maddon said. “It’s just a matter of, yes, watching them this camp will be somewhat important, but we have a pretty good idea what we feel about both of them. Anderson’s been really impressive.”