Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

Anderson, Montgomery battling for final spot in starting rotation

Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs and the city of Mesa will host a championship rally on Friday from noon to 4 p.m. MT/11 a.m-3 p.m. CT at Sloan Park, one day before the defending World Series champs open Cactus League play.

During the rally, fans will hear from Mesa mayor John Giles, Cubs manager Joe Maddon and several Cubs players, and have the opportunity to take photos with the 2016 World Series trophy. Gates will open at 10 a.m. MT/9 CT with live music, food and beverages starting at 11 a.m. MT/10 CT.

The Cubs play host to the Athletics on Saturday at Sloan Park in a split-squad game to open the Spring schedule.

Jon Lester, John Lackey, Koji Uehara, and Carl Edwards Jr. were among the pitchers to throw live batting practice on Monday. All Maddon is watching for now is good health, especially from Brett Anderson. The left-hander missed nearly all of last season after needing back surgery in March.

"To pitch well early is not a concern, health is," Maddon said. "It's all about health. It's about getting everybody ready for that first game in St. Louis."

Anderson is vying for the fifth-starter spot along with Mike Montgomery. Maddon did recall seeing Anderson when he was in the Athletics' rotation from 2009-13.

"I remember when he started out, he was tough, very tough," Maddon said. "You did not want to face him -- all those positives for him, negatives for you. Good stuff, easy stuff. The ball got on the hitter quickly, good breaking ball, ground ball, strike-throwing ability, all that stuff was there.

"I thought he'd be with Oakland for a long time," Maddon said. "He looks like the kind of guy you'd want to keep."

Anderson was dealt in December 2013 to the Rockies for Chris Jensen and Drew Pomeranz, and then signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in December 2014. He has a 38-43 record and 3.86 ERA in eight seasons with the A's, Rockies and Dodgers.

• One other element of Spring Training is the opportunity to see some of the young prospects, such as Eloy Jimenez, 20, who is ranked 13th on MLB.com's list of top prospects.

"Eloy is a different cat," Maddon said of the outfielder, who batted .329 last season at Class A South Bend. "He came in the other day when I was sitting in my office, listening to my music, and he sat down and said 'Hello' and wanted to re-introduce himself to me so I knew who he was. He didn't say that, but that's what I gleaned from it."

The two had a nice conversation in Spanish. "He believes he belongs here," Maddon said. "He's a very bright young man. For me, it's just about getting to know him. He has a bright future."

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.