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Cubs announce top of second-half rotation

CHICAGO -- At least one thing is known about the Chicago Cubs for the start of the second half of the season next Friday in Arizona. Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta will start the three games against the Diamondbacks before the Cubs come home for the start of a 10-game home stand. Manager Rick Renteria announced as much on Sunday.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess who pitches and who’s in the field.

“Those are still pending,” Renteria said before Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. “We still have to have conversations.”

Those conversations will undoubtedly take place during the All-Star break, but it’s not believed the Cubs will settle on one pitcher right away to take over in the rotation for the departed Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel -- other than possibly Dan Straily. Straily, who was acquired from Oakland in the deal, has been a major leaguer in the past but has struggled at times this season. In two starts at Triple-A Iowa since the trade he’s 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA. He’s given up 11 hits and five walks in nine innings pitched. He’s had issues with his fastball command -- which is one way to keep yourself in the minors -- but it’s believed Straily will get his chances with the Cubs in the second half.

“There are more opportunities before us,” Renteria said.

Those other opportunities will come in the form of Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler and Tsuyoshi Wada. The three pitchers all made their major league debuts over the past few weeks and, depending on how the Cubs want to try them out the rest of the season, they all should see the mound again for the major league team. Beeler and Hendricks are the younger prospects while Wada, 33, is the older veteran getting his first chance since coming over from Japan several years ago and undergoing Tommy John surgery.

It would probably benefit Hendricks, in particular, to make his way through the league for a couple of months and learn some lineups. His style is to pitch -- not just throw -- and to navigate lineups with his softer pitching means learning those lineups. If he learns hitters now, he won’t have to as much next season, if indeed he’ll be in the rotation.

In the field, only Arismendy Alcantara is expected to get a real look in the second half, at least until September. The Cubs haven’t announced that he’ll be back with them after the All-Star break, but even if he heads back to Triple-A he’ll be recalled sooner rather than later. It would be a surprise if the Cubs stood pat with the trade deadline approaching. They’ve done their blockbuster deal, but just one minor trade would probably open up a roster spot or two for Alcantara. As is, he might stay anyway. The Cubs have some options to alter their roster, there’s no reason they shouldn't take advantage of that.

As Renteria said, the second half is all about opportunities. Who will seize them?