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Montgomery showing strong future as starter

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- If you're looking ahead to 2018, Mike Montgomery is a good bet to be in the Cubs rotation. For right now, the left-hander will do whatever is needed, and on Monday night, that meant being a substitute starter. He did just fine.

Making his second start for the injured Jon Lester, Montgomery gave up one run over seven-plus innings in the Cubs' 6-1 victory over the Pirates.

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CHICAGO -- If you're looking ahead to 2018, Mike Montgomery is a good bet to be in the Cubs rotation. For right now, the left-hander will do whatever is needed, and on Monday night, that meant being a substitute starter. He did just fine.

Making his second start for the injured Jon Lester, Montgomery gave up one run over seven-plus innings in the Cubs' 6-1 victory over the Pirates.

View Full Game Coverage

"Much better strike-throwing, better counts," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "When he gets better counts and he's putting the ball on the ground, he's tough.

"His future is as a starter. What you saw tonight is typical of what he's capable of doing over a long period of time."

Video: PIT@CHC: Maddon discusses Montgomery's strong start

While Montgomery will continue to prepare to start in five days, it's not clear whether he'll be needed. About five hours before Montgomery threw his first pitch, Lester, sidelined since Aug. 18 with shoulder fatigue, was throwing a simulated game.

"We have to wait on Jon," Maddon said when asked if Montgomery will get another start or go back to the bullpen.

"I'm going to assume I'm going to be asked to start again," Montgomery said. "If it changes, it changes. I'll be able to adjust from there. I let them know, 'Hey, I'll do any role.' I feel comfortable. For now, it's just coming to the park tomorrow and get my work in and be ready to go."

Video: PIT@CHC: Montgomery discusses his dominant outing

He cruised through seven scoreless innings, scattering five hits, and the sixth hit was a leadoff homer by Jordy Mercer in the eighth. That was it for the lefty.

"He just located well," said Mercer, who was 3-for-3 vs. Montgomery. "It seemed like when we got guys on base and put some pressure on him, he came with a big pitch. ... I don't think he's a guy that's going to go on a tear and strike out everybody. He just pitches to contact, hits his spots and tries to get weak contact."

Montgomery dropped a nasty curve on Andrew McCutchen for a called strike to open the fourth that was impressive, too.

"I think the first couple innings, I was trying to find [the curve]," Montgomery said. "It wasn't really where I needed it to be. That's the thing -- you keep picking your spots with it and it ended up being a big pitch for me tonight and that was definitely a big one."

Video: PIT@CHC: Rizzo lifts a sacrifice fly to deep center

He also singled over Pirates starter Trevor Williams to lead off the fifth and scored a run on Anthony Rizzo's sacrifice fly, which gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

"I think I hit three balls the exact same way tonight and one of them just happened to get over the pitcher," Montgomery said. "As soon as I hit that one, I said I was going to sprint toward first and hope for the best."

The Cubs will continue to lean on Montgomery's talents as a pitcher.

"Even though he doesn't throw very hard with his fastball, he has good sink on his two-seam," Cubs catcher Alex Avila said. "Nothing's really straight that he throws. With the array of pitches he has, he has different weapons to go to and a hitter has a lot to think about when he's in the box [facing Montgomery]."

Said Maddon: "This is his future -- to be a really legitimate left-handed Major League starter."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Mike Montgomery