CHICAGO – Even with 2½ weeks left in the regular season, the Cubs’ pitching rotation remains ever-changing.
They will go so far Thursday to give a pennant-race start to a pitcher making his major-league debut.
An old stalwart, Jon Lester, added to the intrigue Wednesday night by running his pitch count up early but then staying in the game through six innings. The Cubs defeated the New York Mets, 17-5, at Wrigley Field.
It was Lester’s third start since coming off the disabled list, and he battled command issues early before breezing through his final three innings.
The rotation roulette will continue in the series finale when the Cubs give the ball to right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng, whom they selected from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday after an outstanding season that led to him being named the Cubs’ minor-league pitcher of the year.
“Jen-Ho comes into town to accept an award tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I just sat down with him in my office, and I said, ‘I guess you’re in town to accept an award tomorrow as being the minor-league pitcher of the year.’
“He just looked at me. And I said, ‘How about if you start tomorrow night’s game instead?’ He didn’t even blink. It’s like, ‘My God.’ Actually, his interpreter was more taken by the whole situation than Jen-Ho was.
“I heard nothing but good things about this kid. I’ve watched the video. We think right now, in order to get us all set up pitching wise, it was the right thing to do.”
Between Iowa and Double-A Tennessee, the 22-year-old Tseng was 13-4 with a 2.54 ERA.
With that move, the Cubs put swingman Mike Montgomery back in the bullpen.
Montgomery was supposed to start Thursday’s game, but he moves back into a role in which the Cubs feel comfortable using him.
Left-handed reliever Justin Wilson has struggled since coming over in a trade with Detroit, leaving Brian Duensing as the only dependable lefty in the pen.
“First of all, we needed some more help in the bullpen,” Maddon said. “And Monty’s so versatile and he was amenable, and we talked about it.
“There’s other things going on that we think is going to be better for us to put Monty back out there. If Jen-Ho was not available, this would not be happening. Guys like him that much. He’s been in Arizona throwing. Minor-league pitcher of the year. So there’s a lot to like about this guy.”
Lester (11-7) said his problems are all about command.
“If I could take the last three [innings] from the last two games, it would be a lot better,” he said. “For whatever reason, I don’t know, just not real crisp early on right now. Figure it out. Game of adjustments. We got to make some.”
The Cubs scored a pair of runs in the first inning against Matt Harvey. They chased him in the fourth with three runs and added four more in the seventh on a solo homer by Javier Baez and a three-run shot by Albert Almora Jr.