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Cubs' top starters scheduled for spring debuts

Hendricks, Lester, Arrieta, Lackey soon pitching
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's time for the Cubs' starting rotation to get some action in Cactus League games. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will each get starts, beginning Saturday.

Hendricks, who led the Majors with a 2.13 ERA last season, will start Saturday against the Dodgers, with Lester following on Sunday against the Rangers. Arrieta will pitch Monday against the Angels. On Tuesday, Lackey will face Team Italy, which is playing an exhibition game at Sloan Park.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's time for the Cubs' starting rotation to get some action in Cactus League games. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will each get starts, beginning Saturday.

Hendricks, who led the Majors with a 2.13 ERA last season, will start Saturday against the Dodgers, with Lester following on Sunday against the Rangers. Arrieta will pitch Monday against the Angels. On Tuesday, Lackey will face Team Italy, which is playing an exhibition game at Sloan Park.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has yet to name the Opening Day starter for the April 2 game against the Cardinals.

Mike Montgomery, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, will make his second spring start on Friday against the Reds. Brett Anderson, who also is in the mix, will back up Hendricks on Saturday.

The plan has been to ease the four regulars back after a long 2016 season that ended with the World Series championship in early November.

Worth noting

Eddie Butler made his spring debut for the Cubs against the Royals on Wednesday. Alcides Escobar launched Butler's second pitch over the center-field wall, but otherwise, the right-hander accomplished what he wanted to. He threw 18 of his 21 pitches for strikes.

"That was my main goal going in there, was pound the strike zone and get early contact," Butler said.

When the Cubs contacted Butler after acquiring him from the Rockies, they told him that he was brought in to add depth and possibly get a spot in the rotation in 2018. Butler is trying to advance that timetable.

"I'm trying to make the team," Butler said. "[Pitching coach Chris Bosio] is working with me every day, trying to get the consistency back. That was the big thing today -- everything was consistent, attacking the bottom part of the zone and throwing my offspeed for strikes."

Butler was 6-16 with a 6.50 ERA in 36 games (28 starts) over three seasons for the Rockies. A change of scenery may be the best thing.

"Maybe," Butler said. "Fresh start, first look for guys on me. It never hurts working with new people, learning new things, tips, tricks, anything to help."

Jemile Weeks, who suffered a hyperextended left knee in a collision at second base on Monday, remains day to day.

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