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Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sept. 19.

MILWAUKEE — There's no longer any need to debate the future of Mike Montgomery.

If the Cubs intend on making the playoffs and going far in the postseason, Montgomery needs to be a part of the rotation.

Whether he's replacing Yu Darvish or Tyler Chatwood doesn't really matter at this point. Montgomery is one of the Cubs' most consistent starters, as he proved again Wednesday, throwing six strong innings and allowing only two hits in a 1-0 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, one of those hits was Lorenzo Cain's home run that helped the Brewers win the series and take a 1 {-game lead in the National League Central.

As much as it makes sense to leave Montgomery in the rotation the rest of the season, it's obviously not going to happen.

The Cubs didn't pay Darvish $126 million to pitch out of the bullpen. Chatwood got a three-year deal, ensuring he will be given a chance to find himself for at least another year. This isn't like 2017, when fifth starter Brett Anderson, a much cheaper free-agent signee, was banished quickly after posting an 8.18 ERA in six starts.

Montgomery is now 2-1 with a 1.14 earned-run average in his four starts since replacing Darvish, just the fifth Cubs pitcher since 1908 to allow one or fewer runs in his first four starts, joining Hippo Vaughn (1919), Greg Maddux (2006), Rich Harden (2008) and Jason Hammel (2016).

"Like (pitching coach Jim Hickey) said, he might have had a perfect game other than Cain," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was really, really good, once again."

Montgomery made a minor stink in the offseason that he wanted to be a starter, and got off to a poor start this season in the bullpen. But after Darvish went on the disabled list the second time, Montgomery has shown he was right all along.

"I'm sure he's pitching with a chip on his shoulder," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.

Montgomery said he has a "good feel" for his pitches now and is comfortable being back in the rotation. He said it was one of his best stretches as a starter, and he's confident he can keep it up.

"I've been around," he said. "I know what it takes to be good. It's just doing it."

Still, Montgomery knows he will be back in the bullpen when Darvish returns. Chatwood would be the obvious choice to give up his spot, but his three-year deal makes it hard to demote him so soon. Chatwood's average of 8.24 walks per 9 innings is not only the worst in the majors, it's more than two walks higher than the second-worst _ Lucas Giolito's 5.86 walks per 9 for the White Sox.

The Cubs won't have to make a decision for a while. Darvish just threw his first bullpen session Tuesday, and the timetable for his return from the disabled list is up in the air.

President Theo Epstein raved about Darvish's throwing Tuesday and chalked up his problems to moving to a new team.

"Most free agents struggle," Epstein said. "Maybe it's a month. Maybe it's three months. Maybe it's a whole season. But there's a point in time where you fight back and you develop a sense of new normal and you're comfortable in your new surroundings and establish yourself.

"You look around baseball, and certainly it happens every year, so as an organization you just have to support him off the field and make him as comfortable as possible and also make sure there's a lot of fight there. I think there is."

Maybe, but we haven't seen it yet, so it's hard to say for sure Darvish has "a lot of fight" in him. He certainly doesn't deserve the kind of pummeling he gets on Twitter, but after his awful performance with the Dodgers in the World Series, followed by his lackluster outings with the Cubs before his latest arm injury, we will need some proof of his "fight" before reaching that conclusion.

His first mistake was letting weeks pass without refuting the story that he thinks Cubs fans hate him, based on a comment from teammate Chris Gimenez, who should have kept his thoughts to himself. Asked Tuesday if he thinks Cubs fans "hate" him, Darvish joked, though his interpreter: "I have to ask each one of them."

So was Gimenez mistaken?

"I've never said anything about Cubs fans," Darvish said. "I was just referring to the World Series. Chris needs to restrain his mind. He's probably thinking about something else. ... The fans here are very supportive. Even in my situation they'll come up to me and see me in town and say 'Hey, thanks for all the performances.' So I really do feel the support."

Darvish deserves a chance to live up to his hype, and Chatwood is capable of pitching better as well.

But Montgomery already has shown what he's made of, and sending him to the bullpen will be difficult to rationalize.

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