WASHINGTON – For Cubs manager Joe Maddon, bullpen flexibility and freeing up lefty Mike Montgomery were prime considerations in making up the roster for the National League Division Series.
Veteran right-hander John Lackey, a starting pitcher, made the 25-man roster. The Cubs are carrying 14 position players and 11 pitchers. One of those position players is speedy outfielder Leonys Martin.
Lackey, who pitched an inning of relief in the regular-season finale, can slide into a long role – filled by Montgomery many times during the season – and also be insurance if Game 4 starter Jake Arrieta can’t go because of his hamstring.
The Cubs put left-handed reliever Justin Wilson on the roster but kept right-handed reliever Hector Rondon off.
“The pitching side of it, with Ronnie vs. Wilson, (it’s) based on their lineup construction,” Maddon said of the Nationals’ hitters. “And this also frees up Montgomery to be utilized more in the moment as opposed to saving him for a large moment, early or late. If something bad happens early or if it’s extra innings, we can deploy Monty whenever we want because now you have John to do that kind of a job. Lackey’s doing kind of what Montgomery’s used to do. Monty’s in the mix now. With their lineup and all the lefties, and really good lefties, we thought it was wise to keep Justin.”
Getting the bad news: Hector Rondon battled back from an elbow ailment to pitch late in the season, but he lost out. Wilson struggled much of the time since the Cubs obtained him in a deadline deal with Detroit. But Maddon liked what he saw recently from Wilson, including in a simulated game this week.
“He blew hitters away,” Maddon said. “He threw one bad curveball. When you’re standing right behind the plate at the cage right there, you can see that thing he’s got at the end of his pitches. He’s not going to be an oil painting. He’s not going to go out there and just go 0-2 on everybody. But you also know when the ball’s in the zone, it’s really hard to square it up.”
As for Rondon, Maddon said he took the news as well as could be expected.
“He was stoic, fine,” the manager said. “Of course he didn’t like it. But not disrespectful at all. Understood, in a sense. If it’s anybody else, they’re disappointed. And I don’t blame him for being disappointed. He’s really been pitching well as of late. It was not an easy decision. A lot of it’s based on them and what they look like, Washington.”
All systems go? If the NLDS goes to a Game 4 at Wrigley Field, Maddon said Arrieta will be ready. Arrieta strained his right hamstring Labor Day in Pittsburgh. He made two starts since then but said he had to alter his delivery to compensate for the hamstring.
“Honestly, he’s feeling really good,” Maddon said. “Everything’s coming up nicely – reports from the doctor, reports from Jake, the training staff. He’s ready for that game, there’s no doubt about that. Something would have to happen between now and then because as of right now, he feels very good.”