MESA, Ariz. -- Rob Zastryzny's leg was fine one day after he was hit by a comebacker on the right calf. The left-hander isn't going to let something like that stop his pursuit of getting to the big leagues.Zastryzny is one of several pitchers the Cubs are looking at as
MESA, Ariz. -- Rob Zastryzny's leg was fine one day after he was hit by a comebacker on the right calf. The left-hander isn't going to let something like that stop his pursuit of getting to the big leagues.
Zastryzny is one of several pitchers the Cubs are looking at as depth in case one of the five starters is hurt or needs a breather. This spring, the Cubs aren't worried about their Nos. 1-5 starters, but who will be Nos. 7-9?
"It's kind of nice -- [Nos.] five, six are [Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson] and then the other guys are in the mix, too, like [Eddie] Butler, [Alec] Mills, etc.," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday. "When you leave camp and you have no starting backup that you dig in Triple-A, it's a bad feeling, man. ... When you can line them up on the tarmac in Triple-A that way, it makes a huge difference."
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The Cubs relied on their big five -- Jonathan Lester, Jacob Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Jason Hammel -- last season and didn't use a sixth starter until right before the All-Star break, and that was by design. With Hammel going to the Royals, Anderson and Montgomery are battling for the fifth spot, with the other one most likely ending up in the bullpen.
This spring, Zastryzny, Butler, Mills, Jake Buchanan, Ryan Williams and Aaron Brooks are among the arms being considered for backups in the Minors.
"To have that kind of quality in the background is comforting. You need that," Maddon said.
Zastryzny got a taste of the big leagues last season when he was promoted and appeared in eight games, making one start.
"I don't know where I'm at in their minds, but in my mind, I'm fighting for the fifth spot, and that's what makes me play better," Zastryzny said Friday. "I'm shooting for a role as a starter, and if it doesn't work out, I'm shooting for a bullpen spot in the big leagues. If they send me to Triple-A, I'll spend my time there working to get up to the big leagues. That's how I play best."
Is he motivated because he got a taste of it last year?
"I try to play it cool, but the big leagues is a lot of fun," Zastryzny said. "It's the most fun I've ever had. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get there."
Hendricks, who led the Major Leagues in ERA last season, will make his Cactus League debut on Saturday, beginning a stretch in which the starters begin their spring outings. Once he's given the go-ahead following Thursday's scare, Zastryzny will pitch out of the bullpen in games.
"You have to pay attention to guys like him," Maddon said of the lefty. "They don't pitch to the gun, but they know how to pitch. We have several. ... A lot of the young guys have gotten the opportunity pitching-wise, and I'm seeing things which are really good. I think it really speaks well for the group. We'll need that kind of help coming out of Triple-A at some point."
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.