New guys in Cubs rotation have early answers for skeptics


No Yu Darvish, no Jose Quintana, no Tyler Chatwood.

No problem for the Cubs. At least not so far. Not four games into the season.

“We’ve got a long season to go, but it’s nice and refreshing to watch the new guys perform and do all the things we expected them to be able to do,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

With Trevor Williams opening his Cubs career with five perfect innings in an eventual six-plus-inning start to beat the Brewers 5-3 on Monday night, the three new guys in the rotation are suddenly 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA and an average of six innings a start one time through the rotation.

They’re not out there breaking any land speed records with their velocity — or many panes of glass in some cases. But in the return of Jake Arrieta and Cubs debuts of Zach Davies and Williams, the Cubs showed glimpses of why they targeted the veterans in free agency and that salary-dump trade of Darvish.

“The additions we made were maybe a little under the radar, but it’s nice for them to get off to a good start in a Cubs uniform,” Ross said.

Williams in particular looked brilliant through five innings with has family, including lifelong Cubs-fan dad Richard, among the 25-percent-capacity crowd watching at Wrigley.

He struck out six of those 15 straight retired, including former MVP Christian Yelich twice, before allowing his first hit as a Cub on Omar Narvaez’ grounder through the vacated third-baseman’s spot on a shift.

Williams also gave up a one-out walk and hit a batter to load the bases, but got a double-play to pitch out of the scoreless sixth, before putting two men on in the seventh and departing.

The only runs he allowed scored on Narvaez’ three-run homer allowed later in the inning by Jason Adam.

“This is really a special moment for my family and me,” Williams said after the debut that also included a standing ovation as he left the mound in the seventh. “They’re my rocks and something that I really, really cherish.”

Davies looked almost as strong through five innings on Sunday in a win over the Pirates, allowing just one hit and two walks until four straight reached with two out in the sixth — two of them scoring on a homer.

Arrieta, who got the biggest ovations from the crowd during Opening Day introductions and again when he took the mound for Saturday’s start, gave up a run in the first, then settled in for six mostly dominant innings.

It’s only the first time through the rotation, but after questions and skepticism over the quality of the rebuilt rotation, the Cubs couldn’t have reasonably scripted a better trio of performances for the new guys.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys the way they work and do the job,” Ross said, “and being able to handle the environment the first time out there on the bump at Wrigley Field, with fans back in the stands; it’s been nice to see them handle that.”

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