By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) — A number of Cubs were burnt out by season’s end in 2017, and left-hander Mike Montgomery was one of those individuals.
The versatile Montgomery registered a 16.62 ERA in five appearances in the postseason, a meltdown that was uncharacteristic of his overall good work for the rest of the year. Montgomery has been open about his desire for his ever-changing role to be handled better and also expressed his preference to start, though he understands he’s valuable to the Cubs as a swingman.
In 2017, Montgomery made 44 appearances — 30 in relief and 14 as a starter. The 130 2/3 innings were a career-high and a physical burden by season’s end. He had a 3.38 ERA.
“Look, I understand my role and I have learned how to deal with it throughout my career,” Montgomery said as Cubs pitchers and catchers held their first workout Wednesday. “You always want to be a good teammate and do what is expected of you.
“There is also the other part where you want to make sure your career is going in the right direction. I think a lot of it is the physical health part of it. We want to make sure I can be at my physical best and not be overworked. I think last year at the end, the workload got to me. The situation was also different and unique. The idea you make a start and come out of the bullpen a few days later, it took its toll on me. I just wanted to pitch every opportunity I could. This year maybe we can take a step back and be a little smarter about that.”
The Cubs’ rotation in spring training will include Montgomery, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. Epstein stopped short of saying that Montgomery would be included in the regular-season rotation, though they envision at least a handful of starts for him. He’ll get starts if someone is injured or simply needs a rest. It’s also possible that the Cubs could use a six-man rotation for some stretches.
Last spring, Montgomery battled left-hander Brett Anderson for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Anderson won the role but struggled mightily and went on the disabled list early in the season before being let go.
Later in the season, Montgomery remained in a swingman role as Eddie Butler filled in as the team’s No. 5 starter.
Montgomery has made clear he’s willing to do what’s best for the Cubs. At the same time, he fears he may burn or not be put in the best position to succeed before he can secure a sizable payday for himself and his family. Montgomery is set to make the big league minimum for a player of his experience this season.
“There is a balance to all of that,” Montgomery said. “You want to have a long career, but you also want to give everything you have when you go out to pitch. Sometimes that might put your health in jeopardy. Just balancing that is a learning process. That would be true for both me and the team.”
The Cubs haven’t had any discussions about a long-term contract with the 28-year-old Montgomery, who is under team control through 2021 and arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason.
“I have not heard anything,” Montgomery said. “I don’t get into those conversations too much. I have not thought that far ahead.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.