MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs went 11-19 in Spring Training last year, then forgot about Cactus League play and got off to a red-hot start that ended with the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. On Saturday, the defending champs open Spring Training with split-squad games.Mike Montgomery, who was
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs went 11-19 in Spring Training last year, then forgot about Cactus League play and got off to a red-hot start that ended with the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. On Saturday, the defending champs open Spring Training with split-squad games.
Mike Montgomery, who was on the mound for Game 7 of the World Series and got his first professional save, will start Saturday at Sloan Park in the Cubs' spring home opener against the Athletics, while Rob Zastryzny will start in Scottsdale against the Giants.
"You're not going to see the big boys yet," manager Joe Maddon said of starters Jonathan Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jacob Arrieta and John Lackey.
Those four were not projected to pitch until the second week of games because of the extra work load last year caused by postseason play.
Jake Buchanan, who, like Zastryzny, is considered insurance for the rotation this season, will start Sunday against Indians, who likely are still smarting after losing the World Series to the Cubs. Brett Anderson, a candidate for the fifth starter spot, along with Montgomery, will start on Monday against the White Sox.
The Cactus League games will give Jason Heyward a chance to see if the changes he's worked on this offseason with his swing have paid off. Kyle Schwarber will test his surgically repaired left knee in the outfield for the first time since the freak accident April 7. Fans shouldn't read too much into the early lineups. Bench coach Dave Martinez is in charge of those, and the goal now is just to get at-bats.
Before the games begin, fans will have a chance to take a photo with the World Series trophy on Friday. The Cubs and the city of Mesa will host a rally from noon to 4 p.m. MT on Friday at Sloan Park. Fans will hear from Maddon, Mesa mayor John Giles and several players. Gates will open at 10 a.m. with live music, food and beverages starting at 11.
• Willson Contreras is being paired with Lester as the Cubs find a replacement for catcher David Ross, who retired after last season.
"Everything is going well," Contreras said. "[Lester] is a good guy. We've been talking about how he wants me to set up for different pitches. Everything's been going great."
• Outfielder Eloy Jimenez, ranked No. 2 on MLBPipeline.com's list of top 30 Cubs prospects, is making the most of his first big league camp.
"I look at the guys, look around and try to learn as much as I can, and listen to the good things they have to say," Jimenez said through interpreter Henry Blanco.
Maddon complimented Jimenez, 20, on his routine as well on Tuesday.
"Joe said, 'Keep doing what you're doing, don't change anything, and we'll see when the games start,'" said Jimenez, who batted .329 with 14 home runs at Class A South Bend last season.
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.