2019 Preview: Cubs Starting Pitching

The Cubs' rotation is a strength and will be counted on to be rock solid again.

Bruce Levine
February 07, 2019 - 9:37 am
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(670 The Score) With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training next week, we're breaking down the Cubs' roster as they enter the new season. Today, we continue with a look at the team's starting rotation.

Who's back?

The Cubs return all five starters who closed the 2018 season for them and newly rehabbed right-hander Yu Darvish, who made just eight starts amid injury troubles a year ago.

Left-hander Jon Lester, right-hander Kyle Hendricks, left-hander Jose Quintana and left-hander Cole Hamels will make up the rest of the rotation in addition to Darvish.

As he has the last few years, left-hander Mike Montgomery projects to play a swingman role, capable of filling a rotation slot if there are injuries or serving as the long man in the bullpen.

Right-hander Tyler Chatwood remains under contract for two more years, but his role and future is unclear after a disastrous 2018 in which he lost all command. Chatwood had an MLB-high 95 walks and a 1.80 WHIP in 103 2/3 innings and lost his rotation spot in late July. For what it's worth, manager Joe Maddon still believes in Chatwood's stuff, but he will be a reclamation project for new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. 

2019 Cubs previews: Infield, outfield

Who's new?

There are currently no new starting pitchers for the Cubs. The only new starters would come from the bullpen or minor leagues should the team suffer an injury setback or need a spot starter. Provided he's healthy, Adbert Alzolay will likely be the first one called up if someone is needed. He has a mid-90s fastball and an above-average breaking ball. 

Alec Mills, Jen-Ho Tseng and Duane Underwood are other options at Triple-A Iowa.

Rotation battles

All five projected starters are inning eaters when right, and there will be no rotation battles, barring injury. Even the Cubs' backup plan is mostly set in stone, as Montgomery is on call for spot starts and can usually be stretched out in a week or 10 days.

When the dog days of August set in, the Cubs could be inclined to skip starts here and there to keep everyone fresh.

What to do with Chatwood will be the talk of camp from the day the Cubs report. 

2019 outlook

There are sexier starting staffs in baseball than the Cubs' -- such as the Nationals' -- but a strong argument can be made that Chicago has more quality starters than any team in the game. Every Cubs starter is capable of producing 180 quality innings.

Lester, who turned 35 in January, continues to anchor the staff, having made exactly 32 starts in each of his four seasons with the Cubs and 31 or more starts in 11 straight years. He won 18 games and posted a 3.32 ERA in an All-Star season in 2018.

Likewise, Hendricks has been consistently good. He had a really strong second half of 2018 and helped the Cubs stay afloat down the stretch as their offense cratered. He has a career 3.07 ERA and has logged 180 innings or more in three of the past four seasons.

Darvish is believed to be 100 percent heading into spring training after elbow surgery last September. If he regains his top form, the Cubs will have another top-of-the-line starter.

Quintana was solid if unspectacular in 2018. The addition of Hamels was a shot in the arm for the Cubs last July, as he posted a 2.36 ERA in his 12 starts in Chicago.

The rotation was a strength of the Cubs in 2018. As they look forward to 2019, it will be counted on to be rock solid again.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.​