Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana will get back on the field on Thursday.
No one seems too worried about the Cubs offense – and I mean, why should we? We’re talking about a group featuring the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras – a pretty formidable group. But when Jose Quintana required surgery after slicing his left thumb, folks started slamming on the panic button.
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Why? Chicago has a rotation that comes with its share of question marks. Will we get first or second-half Yu Darvish from last season? Can Jon Lester, at age 36, rebound from a disappointing 2019 performance? Is Tyler Chatwood ready to return to the rotation on a full-time basis?
Like him or not, Quintana has been consistent during his Cubs tenure. You knew you could put his name down in permanent marker every five days. This current IL stint is, in fact, the first time the southpaw has hit the shelf during his big league career – a pretty remarkable feat in today’s game.
Since 2013, he’s toed the rubber at least 31 times – racking up one of the highest starts totals in all of baseball for starting pitchers. Granted, his performance is often hyper-criticized given the trade that brought him from the South to the North Side. But he was a steady presence in the Cubs rotation.
According to Jon Heyman, he’ll take his first steps toward returning to the mound on Thursday, when he begins tossing for the first time since his surgery.
Now this certainly means he’s looking at missing a minimum of a few weeks of the regular season which, in 2020, could be nearly half of the Cubs’ games. But it’s a best-case scenario for the time being. As soon as news of the injury broke, we knew what it meant. Now, it’s about seeing how quickly Quintana can ramp up and return to the staff.
In the meantime, we’re likely to see Alec Mills slide into his spot in the rotation. The right-hander turned in a very solid 2019 campaign, splitting time as both a starter and reliever. He’ll hope to build on that success in an unprecedented season that features nearly no margin for error.
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Looking past the next few weeks, this might very well be the end of the line for Quintana with the Cubs. He’s set to hit free agency at year’s end – and teams will undoubtedly want someone as durable as he’s been during his career. Make no mistake, either. Chicago will likely be among them given they will return just a pair of starters in Darvish and Hendricks.