MESA, Ariz. – It would be unfair and unrealistic to expect Brett Anderson to be on call in the bullpen. Getting loose and warmed up in a hurry is a difficult ask for a guy who's already undergone two surgical procedures on his lower back and working with no sense of routine as a reliever.
That's why the Cubs project Anderson as their fifth starter over Mike Montgomery, a low-maintenance lefty who has real experience as a swingman and the type of easy-going personality that would accept whatever the bosses ultimately decide.
"It would be more difficult, there's no question," manager Joe Maddon said Monday. "I can't deny that. If you look at the makeup of the player, the pitchers themselves, it's pretty obvious that the one guy is more suited to start and the other guy is more of a hybrid, absolutely.
"We wanted to give it a fair look all camp – and we've been doing that. We're getting close to having to make that final decision."
Another obvious variable is health, given that Anderson's a Tommy John survivor who's been on the disabled list nine times since 2010. His workload can't escalate from three starts with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to 200 innings with the defending World Series champs.
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But with less than two weeks until Opening Night, the Cubs aren't planning on a six-man rotation.
"At least from the beginning, we'll pick one guy to be a starter, the other guy to be a bullpen guy," Maddon said. "We should be proactive, if possible, with when we want to interject the sixth guy, so that we're able to stretch him out in time. If you get too far away from spring training, then that guy is going to lose those innings."
While the Cubs remain intrigued with Montgomery's upside and potential to be a mainstay in the 2018 rotation and beyond, Anderson has made 115 starts in his big-league career and shown that he could thrive as a groundball pitcher working with the best defense in baseball behind him.
"They are equal," Maddon said. "They're really good. Anderson's had more history. You've heard what I said about Montgomery – I really think this guy is capable of 10 to 15 wins if he's given an opportunity. And I like Anderson possibly being a No. 2 (starter). It's a really nice problem to have.
"Once we make up our mind, you're going to see each guy settle into their role."