In what could be a preview of things to come, Marcus Stroman has been named the Cubs’ probable starter for Saturday’s Cactus League opener. Adrian Sampson will piggyback Stroman, which would fit my long-running narrative about the Cubs getting more creative with pitcher usage if it wasn’t already a normal strategy for spring games. It may be worth noting, however, that Stroman isn’t typically a guy who needs to take five starts to stretch out.
With that in mind, it’s kinda-sorta interesting that Sampson is taking the bump at this early juncture. While that’s probably just a matter of ensuring plenty of innings for everyone already in or vying for a spot in the rotation, part of me still wonders whether David Ross is considering a piggyback role for the pitchers who don’t win that battle. Along with Sampson, Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad were mentioned as contenders to get the ball every fifth day.
All three members of that trio work with fastballs in the 93 mph range, though Wesneski is the only one whose stuff probably sees a significant jump from abbreviated outings. That’s why I could see Sampson getting the nod, though the flip side is that he and Assad might pair up to handle the bulk of a game when Ross needs to stretch out the primary starters.
There’s also the idea that both Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay are already slotted for multi-inning relief roles. Unless the Cubs are going to have an arm barn full of long men, someone’s probably ticketed for Iowa. For a roster many continue to pan, this team sure does have precious few spots available.