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If the Chicago Cubs make the playoffs, who will be the No. 3 starter? – The Denver Post

It’s never too early to start thinking about playoff rotation, unless of course you’re the one in charge of speaking to the media about your plan for October.

Chicago Cubs manager David Ross doesn’t need to name his three playoff starters for the Wild Card Series until they get there. And it would be crazy for Ross to do otherwise, with 23 games to go and his team at the heart of both the National League central race and the wildcard race.

Unless the Cubs land a berth before the final week, Ross might need his best starters from the past two series in Atlanta and Milwaukee just to get in.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate, so let’s do it.

There’s no question who Ross’ first two starters in the best-of-three series would be. National League Cy Young Award nominee Justin Steele would be a virtual lock for a Game 1 game if the Cubs didn’t need him to come in.

Kyle Hendricks, who started Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, would seem like a Game 2 certainty given his playoff experience and a strong second half.

But after those two, things get a little tricky.

Jameson Taillon, named No. 2 starter last offseason, endured two bouts of inconsistency in his freshman year at Chicago. He started poorly with a 6.93 ERA in his first 14 starts before recovering in July. He then went 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his next six starts, looking like what pitching president Jed Hoyer thought he had signed when he handed Taillon a $68 million contract. dollars over four years.

But he’s since regressed, posting a 7.18 ERA in his last five starts while serving eight homers in 26 1/3 innings.

Which Taillon will be present for this game? It’s impossible to say.

If he doesn’t bounce back, would Hoyer and Ross ignore the veteran in favor of a rookie like Javier Assad or Jordan Wicks? They may not have a choice.

Which brings us to Gate #3: Does Marcus Stroman still have a chance to come back and start the playoffs?

The Cubs star and future ace held a second bullpen session Monday at the team’s compound in Mesa, Ariz., hoping to return before the end of the season. Stroman hadn’t pitched since suffering a mysterious injury – a broken right rib cartilage – in Toronto in mid-August as he prepared to return from an inflamed right hip. He went to rest in Tampa, then reported to Arizona last week.

Ross said he didn’t speak to Stroman to see if the pitcher was pain free, but was told he was “thrilled” with the progress after two bullpen sessions.

“That would make me assume he’s capable of developing and looking forward to pitching games,” Ross said. “So that would tell me he’s capable of going after him.”

Obviously, it would take a lot longer for Stroman to increase his pitch count to start than to relieve. So would the Cubs consider bringing him back in a relief role instead?

Ross replied that they were merely strengthening Stroman’s arm; there are no plans in place for how it would be used.

“Things happen and the turnover can change quickly,” he said before grouping Stroman with the rehab stints of Michael Fulmer and anonymous minor league pitchers, possibly referring to the Triple-A starter in the league. ‘Iowa Ben Brown and southpaw Brandon Hughes.

“We’ll see how many guys we can get healthy and go from there,” Ross said.

Stroman would likely have to make at least some minor league rehab debut for the Cubs to see if he was physically and mentally ready. His last start was on July 31, and Stroman has struggled in his last seven starts, compiling a 9.00 ERA.

Ross admitted he didn’t know “if it made sense…to throw him into a pennant race from where he is” in rehab. But he didn’t rule out the possibility of Stroman’s return, even if the minor league season ends in two and a half weeks.

“A healthy version of him is good for us,” Ross said, reiterating that he hasn’t spoken to Stroman yet.

“I don’t want him listening to an interview and getting upset,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions today. We are going to get him healthy and I think we are going to stretch him as much as possible, get him back to the starting position. And if we get to a point that benefits us, so much the better. If not, we will consider another role.

The fact that Stroman wants to come back is a good sign, although it would be a risk to bring him back without proper preparation. He could enter free agency in November if he exercises the opt-out in his contract, so proving to other teams he’s healthy before the offseason would be in Stroman’s best interest, financially speaking.

Of course, all of this could be moot if the Cubs lose the wild card spot and fail to catch the Brewers in the NL Central race. Anything can happen, as most Cubs fans know all too well.

Ross will likely stick with his regulars throughout the streak, leaving a crestfallen Christopher Morel to figure things out coming off the bench for now.

“Look, we’re in a really good position to win,” Ross said. “The guys who brought us here are going to play, and those on the bench, they have a role.”



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