(CBS) The Cubs have made nothing official regarding their playoff pitching rotation, but left-hander Jon Lester is now in line to pitch in the postseason opener on a normal routine.
Chicago on Sunday evening announced Lester will pitch Wednesday at St. Louis instead of Thursday, with sixth starter Mike Montgomery now being pushed back to Thursday against Milwaukee. After that, Lester is on schedule to pitch Sept. 20 and then Sept. 27 if the Cubs continue to go with a six-man rotation. That would then allow Lester to start in the Oct. 2 regular-season finale on his regular four days of rest — it could be a shorter start to keep him in rhythm — and then have four off days before the Cubs will surely host an NLDS opener on Oct. 7 at Wrigley Field. Depending on the plan with Montgomery after Thursday, Chicago could also move that Sept. 27 start up for Lester and keep him on pace for a start in the final weekend of the regular season but with more rest before the playoff opener.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn’t confirm the move was made with the playoffs in mind, the Tribune reported, but Lester has been consistently good and has a proven track record of success in the postseason. He has also spoke previously of his preference to pitch once every five days, even as the Cubs look to lighten the load for their key players with a big division lead. Lester is 16-4 with a 2.51 ERA this season.
The rest of the Cubs’ postseason rotation is expected to be Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey in some order.
The Cubs’ magic number for clinching the NL Central is five. They open a three-game series against the Cardinals on Monday night and could clinch as soon as Wednesday with a potential sweep.