CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs playoff rotation became a little clearer on Friday when the team all but ruled out righty Jake Arrieta for Games 1 or 2 of the division round against the Washington Nationals, in order to give his right hamstring more time to heal. Arrieta was essentially scratched from Sunday's start for that reason as well.
"Primarily to give his leg more rest," manager Joe Maddon said Friday morning. "A real healthy Jake pitching like he can is very important."
Arrieta injured his hamstring in a start on Sept. 4 returning later in the month for two outings, but his latest one didn't go well leading to the former Cy Young winner to admit the hamstring ailment was impacting his delivery. Instead of starting on Sunday, the Cubs will pitch him in a simulated game in the coming days to control his effort level.
"Anytime you're in a game and put a hitter in there it's hard to take a step back," Arrieta said of pitching in a real game. "It's nice to have a few days and completely do nothing but work with the trainers and do some stuff."
The Cubs have not announced their rotation for the playoff series against the Nationals, which begins Oct. 6, although Maddon made it clear giving Arrieta extra time by pitching him no earlier than Game 3 would be the smart thing to do.
"Part of the deal would be to gain more time, to make Jake well, then push him to the latter part of the rotation," Maddon stated.
That leaves Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester as candidates for Game 1 and a potential Game 5, but Lester has also been struggling since returning from a disabled list stint. Maddon continues to intimate Hendricks might be his guy to open the series, declaring him at the top of his game and "one of the best pitchers in the league" right now.
Maddon didn't rule out all five of his starters making the postseason roster, including John Lackey, who had a solid second half.
"It's definitely possible to see all of them involved," Maddon said. "Somebody would have to be folded into the bullpen to do that but it's possible."
At midseason, Lackey said he would rather retire than go to the bullpen but quickly retracted that with a caveat: If it was a postseason situation he would do whatever the team wanted. As for Lester, Maddon just wants to make sure his arm is OK.
"Just about health," Maddon said. "That he is well."
Lester starts his final game of the regular season on Saturday. No matter where Arrieta slots in he insists he can get the job done at less than 100 percent. More than likely that would be in Game 3 on Oct. 9 at Wrigley Field.
"I'm strong enough to where I can take a little bit of effort off from my lower body and focus on finishing with my upper body," Arrieta said. "There is some wiggle room in there."
Jake Arrieta (hamstring) ruled out Sunday, likely to pitch later game in NLDS
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