Cubs flip Hammel, Montgomery in rotation

Right-hander fresh after short outing; lefty coming off season-high 91 pitches

Cubs flip Hammel, Montgomery in rotation

CHICAGO -- Jason Hammel will have one less day to think about his last outing. The Cubs have tweaked the rotation, and Hammel will close their series against the Pirates on Wednesday night while lefty Mike Montgomery will get an extra day and start Thursday against the Giants.

Hammel threw 39 pitches over 2 1/3 innings last Saturday against the Dodgers, and was not happy about being lifted so early. After the outing, he said he felt as if he hadn't even pitched. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts against the Pirates this season.

"We want to get 'Hammer' back out there a little sooner, and Montgomery, coming off 90 [pitches] in his last outing, gives him an extra day," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. "It makes all the sense in the world to do it."

Montgomery threw a season-high 91 pitches over five innings last Friday against the Dodgers, and Thursday's game will be his third start for Chicago.

The Cubs also got good news regarding John Lackey, who threw his first bullpen session Monday since going on the disabled list on Aug. 15 with a right shoulder strain. Lackey will throw another bullpen Thursday and could start on Sunday in the series finale against the Giants.

Montero's moment

• After sitting on the bench for five hours Monday night, Miguel Montero stepped to the plate in the 13th inning as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded against the Pirates' Jeff Locke. The first pitch he saw from the lefty came fast.

"It felt like it was [Aroldis] Chapman pitching," Montero said. "I got to two strikes, and I battled and I got the hit, and it felt good to finish the game."

Montero's walk-off RBI single

Montero delivered a walk-off RBI single to give the Cubs an 8-7 victory. It's been a difficult season for Montero, who has lost playing time because of the ascension of rookie Willson Contreras, and this was a nice moment for the veteran.

"To be ready in that situation, to get a big knock for us to win a game isn't easy to do," Jake Arrieta said. "You respect that, you respect his ability to stay ready for that type of moment. I'm proud of him to come through."

Montero's duties have shifted from playing to mentoring Contreras.

"I try to be as professional as I can," Montero said. "Regardless of whether I play or not, it's not going to stop me from helping my teammates. At the end of the day, I like the guys and I like my teammates. If I can help someway, somehow, I'm happy. That doesn't mean I'm pleased to be on the bench watching baseball, because I still feel I can play, but if I'm not playing, I want to help someway."

Montero has actually done better against lefties than right-handers this season, and he likes being in clutch situations. In his career, he's a .340 batter with the bases loaded, and this season, he's 2-for-7.

"When they load the bases, I feel pretty good about myself," Montero said.

Worth noting

• The Wrigley Field outfield looks a little beat up in center field after hosting concerts while the Cubs were on their West Coast road trip. Maddon said the players noticed it when they posed for their team picture in center on Monday.

Right fielder Jason Heyward said he just adjusted to the different surface.

"All I know is there's not much I can do about it," Heyward said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.