Levine: Miguel Montero’s Health Could Be Determining Factor For Cubs’ 25-Man Roster In NLCS

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs on Friday were still discussing the 25-man roster they’ll carry against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, with the focus on the bullpen and catching corps. Carrying 12 pitchers — instead of 11 like in the NLDS — is a possibility, with the Cubs looking at adding a reliever while also weighing the health of catcher Miguel Montero, who’s dealing with a sore back.

Montero was getting his back worked on Friday afternoon, and his physical status figures to determine whether he’ll be on the roster. The Cubs included three catchers on their NLDS roster.

“My back locked up in San Francisco,” Montero said Friday. “It’s much better after getting treatment.”

If Montero is on the roster, he would be expected to catch right-hander Jake Arrieta in Game 3 on Tuesday. After announcing Thursday that Jon Lester would go in Game 1 on Saturday, the Cubs set the rest of their rotation Friday, saying right-hander Kyle Hendricks will go in Game 2, followed by Arrieta and then right-hander John Lackey in Game 4.

Rosters must be set by early Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs could face left-handed Dodgers starters up to five times in the series, which should bode well for outfielder Jorge Soler in terms of being a spot starters and a pinch-hitting option. The option of sitting Jason Heyward against Clayton Kershaw — who’s expected to start Game 2 — may come into play. Maddon could go with Soler in left field and Zobrist in right field, similar to the approach he took in Game 3 of the NLDS.

The Cubs bullpen may be fortified by left-hander Rob Zastryzny, who pitched 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief against the Dodgers earlier this season in a game in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are vulnerable to left-handed pitching, against whom they had the worst OPS in baseball this season.

The inclusion of No. 5 starter Jason Hammel as a long reliever is also in the discussion for the Cubs. With Hendricks coming back from a forearm contusion, Hammel could provide insurance.

“My arm is fine,” Hendricks said. “The medical staff did a lot to get the swelling out of the arm. They use metal tongs to pressure and push the swelling out of a centrally located area. That procedure is painful, but it helped enhance the healing. They also sent me home with a stimulation machine. The stimulation machine helps get the blood flow back to normal in the swollen area.”

Trevor Cahill and Joe Smith are right-handed relievers the Cubs could also choose to add as a 12th pitcher. Cahill fits the long-man role after spending many years as a starter. Smith is a side-arm specialist for right-handed hitters.

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

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