Justin Steele

Amid September slide, Cubs reshuffle rotation ahead of final stretch

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It was a short two weeks ago that Chicago Cubs fans were flying high, with playoff odds north of 90% following a pivotal three-game sweep over the San Francisco Giants, a fellow playoff contender.

In the two weeks since the Cubs closed out a big sweep, they have won just two ballgames, dropping six of seven crucial games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Not only do the Snakes handily own the tiebreaker over the North Siders, they've also booted the Cubs out of the second Wild Card spot after trailing them by four games entering their first series at Wrigley Field.

Looking for a spark and taking advantage of a day off, the Cubs have reset their rotation ahead of their final 12 games of the regular season.

While Jameson Taillon, who last pitched in a 7-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday, will have his turn skipped in the rotation after initially being slated to start against the team he debuted with on Wednesday night.

After Javier Assad's start Tuesday night, the Cubs will opt to go with the rotation's top two arms on normal rest thanks to the day off, giving Justin Steele the start on Wednesday while Kyle Hendricks will get the ball Thursday evening.

In addition to giving the Cy Young-contending Steele an earlier start in a pivotal series against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the Cubs, it would also line Steele up to potentially pitch in Game 162, should the Cubs need to win that game to earn a playoff berth.

While the option of throwing Steele in such a game would be a luxury, it would also take the southpaw out of pitching in the Wild Card series, unless he were to pitch on short rest.

If Game 162 ends up being inconsequential to the Cubs' playoff chances, it's fair to assume that Steele would no longer start that game.

The Cubs resetting the rotation and not explicitly involving All-Star Marcus Stroman in the process is also an indication that the North Siders will opt to use him out of the bullpen for the rest of the season, a role he has rarely held in his big league career.

As for Jameson Taillon, the extended break likely lines the veteran righty up for a start in Friday afternoon's series opener against the Colorado Rockies, though that would give him two consecutive starts against Colorado.

Manager David Ross' bullpen usage in the Pittsburgh series is also likely to indicate how the rotation will play out in the upcoming series, though there has been nothing to suggest that Taillon would also pitch in relief.

The Cubs, occupying the third NL Wild Card spot by mere percentage points, are currently in a rain delay for their series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

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