By Bruce Levine–
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Upon arrival in Los Angeles on Friday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wasn’t ready to name a starter for Game 1 of the Nationals League Championship Series against the Dodgers on Saturday.
After all, it’d been a bizarre day.
A medical issue with a player’s family member caused the Cubs’ team charter to be diverted to Albuquerque, New Mexico early Friday morning. The Cubs then sat on the tarmac for more than four hours because the flight crew had to time out, causing a wait for new pilots. The team then arrived in Los Angeles early Friday afternoon.
The Cubs’ decision is between left-hander Jose Quintana and right-hander John Lackey, Maddon said. As he met the media late in the afternoon Friday, Maddon still hadn’t decided on a starter.
“We just have not decided yet,” Maddon said. “As soon as I get done here, I will meet with Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer) and all the coaches to decide. We have not determined anything as of yet.”
The last two games of the National League Division Series against the Nationals had taken a toll on the Cubs with all four primary rotation members being used. Quintana threw 12 pitches of relief during the seventh inning of a 9-8 victory against the Nationals in Game 5 on Thursday in Washington. He also did a full warmup session, adding to the workload and stress.
“The last time I did this was in 2013,” Quintana said of his relief outing. “It was really tough, especially in October when the weather is a little different. I tried to get a sweat going. It was good, my mind was strong. I made my pitches and hopefully helped save the game.”
Quintana last started Monday, a 2-1 Cubs win in Game 3 in which he went 5 2/3 innings. Lackey was in the bullpen in the NLDS but wasn’t used.
“I don’t know yet,” Quintana said of the Game 1 decision. “They told us they would tell who it is (Friday). I will tell you I am ready. They just did not say who it is yet. I think it might be me, because I am fresh.”
Right-hander Jake Arrieta started in Wednesday’s rescheduled Game 4 at Wrigley Field, and left-hander Jon Lester pitched an extended appearance in relief. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks started in Game 5, which has left Maddon with the options of Quintana (7-3, 3.74 ERA with the Cubs in the regular season) or Lackey (12-12, 4.59).
Maddon did say that Lester could be in line to start Game 2 on Sunday. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1, while Los Angeles follows with left-hander Rich Hill in Game 2, right-hander Yu Darvish in Game 3 and left-hander Alex Wood in Game 4.
The Cubs carried 11 pitchers on their 25-man roster in the NLDS. There’s a chance they increase that to 12. If not, a switch could still be made. Right-handers Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm were inactive in the first round, and one of them could replace a fellow reliever or Lackey in the NLCS.
A fresh arm could help a Cubs bullpen that struggled in the NLDS.
“The days off certainly help you get your bullpen back in order,” Maddon said.
First pitch between the Cubs and Dodgers comes Saturday at 7:08 p.m. CT from Los Angeles.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.