Notes: Yu or Hendricks for Game 1?

September 27th, 2020

CHICAGO -- The Cubs know that and will start the first two games of the team's upcoming Wild Card Series. The order is still something manager David Ross and his staff are discussing behind the scenes.

"Let me just talk to those guys," Ross said prior to Sunday's regular-season finale against the White Sox. "I'm not ready to announce that, yet."

The Wild Card Series is set to begin with Game 1 on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, with Game 2 set for the following day. Darvish would be on normal rest for Game 1, but would get an extra day for Game 2. Hendricks, on the other hand, would have six days' rest for a Game 1 start, compared to a week for Game 2.

One thing is clear: Either arm is a great choice to open the best-of-three series.

Darvish finished his season with a 2.01 ERA to go along with 93 strikeouts and 14 walks in 76 innings, while leading the National League in WAR (3.0 per FanGraphs). Hendricks ended with a 2.88 ERA in his 12 starts, in which he struck out 64, walked eight and logged 81 1/3 innings.

"It's a big confidence boost for this group," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "There are a lot of teams with impressive one-two combos in their starting staff that they're going to roll out in this first round, but we feel as good about Hendricks and Darvish as we would any combination out there.

"Those guys have our full faith and trust. I think it changes the whole dynamic of how you're looking at that first round."

Contreras climbs Lester's list
Cubs catcher moved past former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek on Saturday on 's list of career innings caught. Contreras has been behind the plate for 548 of Lester's innings, trailing only the 578 2/3 innings handled by Ross in his catching days.

Told that he still ranked first, Ross pumped his fist and smiled. The Cubs manager said that he has seen Contreras grow into a more well-rounded catcher over the past few years, and Ross credited Lester for playing a role in that evolution.

"They've both fed off each other, right?" Ross said. "Jon, being kind of the guy with the experience, with a young catcher and bringing him along. I think that's worked both ways. I think Jon's mentored him. I've seen the focus that Willson has, especially on Jon's day, where he feels like there's a lot of responsibility and he takes it personal."

Worth noting
• While the Cubs have not officially announced their planned rotation for the Wild Card Series, all signs point to Lester being lined up as the Game 3 starter, if necessary.

"This is his time of year," Epstein said. "The guys in that clubhouse couldn't trust him more, especially at this time of year. And everyone's fully confident when he's on the mound, especially in October and eager to see him get the ball if we do get to that Game 3 scenario."

• Ross noted that right-hander Tyler Chatwood (10-day injured list, right forearm) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Saturday. The manager said Chatwood tested his full arsenal and all the pitch data looked positive.

"He looked really good," Ross said. "I still think he's a good bit away."

• Second baseman Jason Kipnis got the start at first base for Sunday's regular-season finale, marking his first professional game (Majors or Minors) at that position.

"We were trying to build something that could have sustained success. Define that by becoming regular participants in October either every year, or just about every year. This core group of players has gone out and made it to October five years out of six. Three division championships. Three LCS's, hopefully four. One World Series, hopefully two. In a six-year span, it's really impressive and should not be taken for granted." -- Epstein