Jose Quintana’s progression continues, with a bullpen session yesterday – his first since slicing his thumb this summer – going well.
Cubs Pitching Coach Tommy Hottovy said that Quintana was able to throw all of his pitches in the 28-pitch session, which was a positive, even if everything’s not there yet.
“Every once in a while, it’s just you feel like the release point is off and I wouldn’t attribute that at all to the hand stuff, I think that’s just more getting off the mound, getting the rhythm,” Hottovy said, per Marquee. “He feels good. He’s in a very positive mood …. Not really concerned with him physically, because I think arm-wise, body-wise, he was in a really good place coming into that summer camp. Now it’s more about, OK let’s see how his hand is feeling, let’s see how the fine tuning of all the things, the placement of the pitches, the shape of the pitches, how he’s able to command the baseball. I think once he gets comfortable doing that, you’ll see start to pick up fairly quickly.”
In other words, I take all that as Quintana mostly already being past any issues related to the thumb injury, itself. And now it’s the business of actually getting him and his arm and his pitches into big league shape. In a normal Spring Training, you might say a guy would go from first bullpen to big-league-ready in maybe a month. In Summer Camp, obviously guys did it in about three weeks. So maybe, since Quintana was otherwise staying in the same shape as the other guys during the shutdown, you might see him big league ready in about three weeks from now? That’s probably on the optimistic end, though it would still have him missing the first month of the season.
We’ll keep monitoring his progress, and I wouldn’t look for any kind of certainty on a return timeline before mid-August. At that point, it’s possible the Cubs will have a sense of when he could come back, and then also how they want to coordinate his return with the rest of the rotation and the bullpen. I know Quintana has always been a starting pitcher and *IS* a starting pitcher, but it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where the Cubs’ current five starters are healthy and clicking, and the Cubs think maybe the best impact they could get from Quintana is as a multi-inning guy out of the bullpen – clearly, that’s a need. Throw in the fact that it’s a mucked up season anyway, and Quintana was always at his best when he leaned heavily on just two pitches (four-seamer and curveball), and maybe it just makes sense not to presume he immediately needs to start when he comes back.
Yes, of course it’s possible that Alec Mills would slot back into the bullpen (also a help), but I’m just saying there’s no sense in assuming anything just yet.