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Cubs notes: Fifth-starter job becomes more mysterious

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon hinted that the team is thinking of a creative way to keep longtime starters Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson around if both are throwing well at the end of spring training. The only problem is Maddon didn’t reveal what that plan could be.

“We’ll take a variety of different thoughts into making this decision and try to do the best thing for us, obviously,” Maddon said Friday before Wood took the mound against the Chicago White Sox. “I think both Woody and Jackson have represented themselves well. We just have to try and make our best guess.”

The Cubs are set with their top four pitchers, assuming Jon Lester’s dead-arm issue is a short-term concern. He’s followed in the rotation by Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Both Wood and Jackson are coming off poor seasons and both can’t be starters, so how would this work?

“There’s different ways to utilize both of them,” Maddon said. “Obviously, it’s hard to see them as both starters but we were talking about different ways. … It was [team president] Theo [Epstein]’s idea and I kind of liked it. I’m chewing on it right now.”

This is just speculation, but it’s possible the Cubs could have both ready to pitch on the same day and just piggyback one after the other, as it’s often done in spring training. Maybe they alternate who starts every five days and the other pitcher comes in after a certain amount of pitches or if early danger lurks. It's way unconventional, but with Epstein, you never know what he might be thinking.

“I haven’t heard anything about that so I can’t comment on that,” Wood said of the secret idea. “Thank goodness. It’s not my job. Tough decision.”

Wood got knocked around against the Sox, giving up 11 hits in 4⅓ innings, but none left the park. It was reminiscent of many of his starts last season. Like Jackson though, he’s looked good at times this spring. His ERA is 3.77 after Friday’s start while Jackson’s is just 1.00, though he’s given up six unearned runs in three starts.

“Both guys have done some really good major league work in the past,” Maddon said.

Tough night for Baez: Maddon was asked about Javier Baez’s four-strikeout night against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.

“He was frustrated by the whole evening,” Maddon said. “There’s no question about that. The biggest thing is just making an adjustment in progress. He was not able to do that last night.

“I don’t want him to get frustrated at one aspect of the game because he’s going to be very good at that in the near future.”

Baez is hitting .100 this spring and could always be kept on the roster for his defense if he’s playing well in the field. Don’t count on it, though.

“You can, but then you have to consider his development as well,” Maddon said.

Walking wounded: Kris Bryant should be in the lineup at third base on Saturday when the Cubs play the Seattle Mariners as his shoulder soreness has subsided. ... Dexter Fowler is a little sore after running into the wall Thursday night but it's nothing serious. ... Matt Szczur is closer to playing after getting banged up running into the wall as well earlier this week.

What’s next: Eric Jokisch will take Lester’s place on the mound in Saturday’s home game against the Mariners.