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Maddon's rotation boasts Opening Day cred

Three of Cubs' five starters had the honor last season
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- As manager Joe Maddon was driving to the Cubs' spring complex Wednesday morning, he was thinking about his rotation. Three of the Cubs' five pitchers were Opening Day starters last year: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana.

"We have three guys who have done it -- four guys who among this group could do it sometime in their career," Maddon said Wednesday. "[Kyle Hendricks'] time is coming. That's pretty good stuff."

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MESA, Ariz. -- As manager Joe Maddon was driving to the Cubs' spring complex Wednesday morning, he was thinking about his rotation. Three of the Cubs' five pitchers were Opening Day starters last year: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana.

"We have three guys who have done it -- four guys who among this group could do it sometime in their career," Maddon said Wednesday. "[Kyle Hendricks'] time is coming. That's pretty good stuff."

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The Cubs sorted out their rotation Wednesday and announced the order to open the season. Lester will lead off on Opening Day on March 29 against the Marlins, and he'll be followed by Hendricks, Darvish, Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

"We thought this was the right way to roll right now," Maddon said. "Of course, Jonny Lester deserves to be [the Opening Day] guy. Kyle, his day will come when he gets that opportunity."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Darvish was the Rangers' Opening Day starter last year, and Quintana did the honors for the White Sox.

On Thursday, Darvish will make his Cubs debut, starting against the Rockies at Sloan Park. What are Maddon's expectations for the right-hander?

"Really low," Maddon said. "I know he's really good. When you have guys like that, it's just about track record. Health is the biggest worry I have. He's going to pitch really well this year and for the next several years, because he's really good. And with good health, you'll continue to see that. Track records matter. What guys have done in the past matters much more than Spring Training performance. He actually might be a little nervous. I just want to make sure he's healthy."

Video: Darvish discusses fitting in, mound-visit rules

Darvish, 31, who is coming off a season in which he was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts with the Rangers and Dodgers, may only throw one inning Thursday. Lester threw 31 pitches on Tuesday against the White Sox in his first outing and Hendricks started on Wednesday.

"Whatever they want," Maddon said. "I'm not of the babying ilk. If these guys feel good about it, [fine]. They've been throwing, they've been throwing, they've been throwing, they've been throwing so much."

Darvish replaces Jake Arrieta in the Cubs' rotation. What does he bring?

"Hopefully, between 15 and 20 wins," Maddon quipped. "That always makes the clubhouse feel good. When a guy's that good, you anticipate some good numbers. He goes out there and plays like he's capable of playing, that will speak very loudly."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester