Maddon: 'Sky's the limit' for Montgomery

Maddon: 'Sky's the limit' for Montgomery

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs will ease starters Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey into spring games in a week. Deciding who fills the fifth spot in the Cubs' rotation began on Saturday, although manager Joe Maddon said the two candidates, Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery, may end up sharing it.

Montgomery, who got the final out for the Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series in November, opened Cactus League play on Saturday against the Athletics and walked two and struck out two in one inning, throwing 24 pitches. Anderson, who missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery in March, will make his first start for the Cubs on Monday against the White Sox.

"We like them both," Maddon said of the two lefties. "Watching them this camp will be somewhat important."

However, because neither pitcher has been stretched out, what the Cubs are considering is what Maddon called a "hybrid moment."

"We can fold one into the bullpen while the other one starts," Maddon said Saturday. "It's in theory right now, but we haven't laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. You've got six guys you like right there. These guys have not been satisfactorily stretched out. We want to keep them both."

Anderson made a career-high 31 starts in 2015 with the Dodgers, totaling 180 1/3 innings. Montgomery has not made more than 16 starts in a season, and that was in his first big league campaign with the Mariners in 2015. Last year, he totaled seven starts, including five with the Cubs, but was used primarily out of the bullpen.

"I think he's a 10-plus-game winner on an annual basis," Maddon said. "It's within his abilities. I've told him that -- 10 to 15 games is within his abilities. That comes with fastball command and knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He's got really high-quality stuff.

"If he understands how to utilize the other things he's doing, the sky's the limit," Maddon said. "He's very, very talented. I'd like to believe that [Game 7] moment increases confidence, but then again, it's a new year and you have to go out there and pitch."

That deciding Game 7 moment was Montgomery's first career save. He's hoping it's his last one and he can stay in the rotation.

"My mentality is coming in as a starter, getting in that routine and physically preparing for that," Montgomery said. "There's a lot of different possibilities they can go with. I think for me, it's just continue to build arm strength and get my timing down and mechanics down, and that way, I'm ready to go do whatever it is they need me to do."

• Closer Wade Davis and veteran Koji Uehara also will be eased into action and will likely get seven or eight spring appearances.

"They were all very pleased with that," Maddon said of the two relievers.

• Infielder Tommy La Stella was listed as day to day because of tightness in his left hamstring.

• The Cubs play host to the Indians on Sunday, their first meeting since Game 7 of the World Series. Shortstop Addison Russell said some of the players are jokingly calling it "Game 8."

"I asked the guys in the meeting this morning to not look past today," Maddon said of Saturday's split-squad games.

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.