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Cubs announce 2018 pitching rotation, but no Yu Darvish start on Thursday

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs looks on in the spring training on February 24, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

MESA, Ariz.  – When the season came to an end in the National League Division Series last October, some wondered what the team’s starting rotation might look like a couple of months later.

Three guys were locked in with two spots very much up in the air. Free agency took care of those questions, but in what order would they be most effective?

Joe Maddon and the Cubs gave fans an idea on Wednesday, initially ahead of what was supposed to be the most anticipated start of spring so far for the Cubs on Thursday.

Already with Jon Lester slated as the Opening Day starter on Tuesday, the Cubs set the rest of the order for at least the start of the season.

Kyle Hendricks, who pitched two innings against the Athletics on Wednesday in his Spring debut, will be the second starter in the rotation. Newly acquired right-hander Yu Darvish gets the third spot with Jose Quintana going fourth and Tyler Chatwood fifth.

Darvish was supposed to make his first Spring Training start on Thursday but was a late scratch due to an illness that’s lingered the last two days. Instead of throwing two innings against the Rockies, he’ll throw a simulated two in the bullpen.

Next Tuesday Darvish will make his spring debut against the Dodgers, the team he pitched for the second half and postseason of 2017.

Not bad for a team looking for a  fourth-straight playoff appearance, third-straight NL Central Division title and their second World Series crown in three years. Lester and Hendricks are a season removed from being Cy Young finalists, Darvish is a four-time All-Star while Quintana was in the Mid-Summer Classic in 2016.

Hopes are high for Chatwood despite an 8-15 season with a 4.69 ERA, considering that he won’t have to pitch nearly as often in hitter-friendly Coors Field as he did when he was with the Rockies. In 16 road starts last season, Chatwood’s ERA was a much more respectable 3.49.