Cubs’ search for consistency in 2017, beyond starts with starting pitching

As the Cubs try to regain a semblance of the sustained success that enabled them to cruise to the 2016 National League Central title, the long-range goal of possessing controllable starting pitching persists.

The final two games of their series in San Diego serve as a reminder of that mission, with Eddie Butler and Jake Arrieta mirroring the unsettled state of the rotation.

“I want to be here,” Butler said before taking the mound Tuesday night against the Padres. “I want that spot, and I’m doing everything I can to hold it for the next 10 years, hopefully.”

The Cubs hope Butler, who was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first three starts, can ascend after a rough beginning with the Rockies the same way Arrieta did after he was traded to the Cubs in July 2013 after a miserable start with the Orioles.

The development of Butler, 26, is essential since the Cubs have waited patiently to draft and fully develop a homegrown starter since President Theo Epstein took over before the 2012 season.

Butler’s development, however, wouldn’t be enough to compensate for the potential losses of Arrieta and John Lackey after this season. And the Cubs will need more starting pitching insurance this summer as they try to achieve their third consecutive playoff appearance, even if they convert left-hander Mike Montgomery to a starting role.

The Cubs witnessed the importance of starting pitching depth as Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy shut them down last weekend in Los Angeles while left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu was temporarily dispatched to the bullpen and prized 20-year-old left-hander Julio Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Butler believes his time is now. He reached the majors after only two seasons in the minors, only to struggle for parts of three seasons with the Rockies before he was dealt last winter.

“Maybe I didn’t have enough time to experience failure before I got to the big…

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