CHICAGO -- Early indications are the Chicago Cubs will start Jon Lester on Saturday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against either the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers, according to Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio.
"Right now it’s probably going to be Jon because it’s his turn," Bosio said on the "Kap & Co." show on ESPN 1000 on Wednesday in Chicago. "The way it’s laid out is probably how it’s going to be."
Lester threw in Game 1 of the division series victory against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday and Cy Young award candidate Jake Arrieta pitched in Game 3 on Monday. If Lester pitches Saturday, it gives Arrieta an extra day of rest for Game 2 on Sunday.
"Joe (Maddon) doesn’t want us to change a lot of stuff," Bosio said. "That’s why I don’t see us doing anything real crazy. There’s a comfort level with their work days, which for me is really important. Each of these guys has a routine."
Bosio said the team will meet on Wednesday afternoon to plan a course of action, so nothing is official. The Cubs will hold a workout on Thursday at Wrigley Field and likely name their starters for at least the first two games of the series, which take place on the road.
If Lester starts Game 1 on Saturday it means Arrieta would most likely start Games 2 and then 6, if it’s necessary. That would give him another extra day off as he’ll get five days between those two starts. Arrieta gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in Monday’s game against the Cardinals and wasn’t as sharp or dominant as he’s been over the past few months.
"I didn’t think he was stressed physically," manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. "I just think he was off mechanically."
Arrieta has already surpassed his career high in innings as the Cubs have relied on him to pitch in all the big games, including their wild card win against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he threw a complete game shutout. Five days later he beat the Cardinals but was "off" a little.
"I just thought he was getting a little side to side, spinning off things," Maddon said. "That’s why the pitches were where they were. Now sometimes that can be fatigue-related, but I didn’t see that. I just thought it was more him being off mechanically a little bit."
If Arrieta pitches in Game 2 of the NLCS instead of Game 1 then there is no chance he starts three games. The Cubs aren’t likely to do that with him or Lester, as it would mean pitching two games on three day’s rest anyway. Additionally, if Arrieta throws in Games 2 and 6, he probably would not be available out of the bullpen in a Game 7. Lester would be if he starts Games 1 and 5, so basically the decision comes down to extra rest for Arrieta or having him available out of the bullpen for Game 7. Otherwise Lester would be the guy out of the pen for that game as both pitchers would get two starts apiece.
If Bosio’s reasoning holds then Kyle Hendricks would be the game 3 starter and Jason Hammel would get Game 4, leaving Hendricks for Game 7 if it’s necessary. It’s possible the Cubs could push one of their aces to Game 3 to line him up for Game 7, but that could be wasting him if the series never gets that far.