It was great to get a good outing from a starting pitcher not named Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks, but even as Alec Mills looked good last night, I think we have plenty of reason to be concerned about the rotation right now.
And, when you’re concerned about 60% of the rotation, you will, in turn, be obsessing about the bullpen, because you’re gonna see a whole lot more of them.
To that end, a trio of rehabbing Cubs pitchers that could very well figure into the stretch run and the postseason for the team: Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, and Andrew Chafin.
Quintana and Chatwood both threw at Wrigley Field yesterday, with Quintana (lat inflammation) seemingly much closer to a return to the Cubs. David Ross hasn’t yet ruled out the possibility that Quintana could be back as soon as this weekend, a series against the Brewers for which the Cubs have yet to announce their starters. I tend to think it’s impossible that Quintana could show up this weekend as a normal starting pitcher for the Cubs, but if he’s healthy, could he start a game and go three-ish innings? Yeah, that seems possible. And indeed, it could be the case, thanks to the weird year and his injuries, that’s all you’re going to get out of Quintana the rest of the way – three-inning bursts at a time. It would be good to know that now, so you can plan accordingly, and maximize the value of those innings.
Similarly, even if Chatwood (foream/flexor) is able to return before the end of the season, you might be looking at a guy who can give you only a couple or a few innings at a time. It would be nice to know if that’s on the table before the final week of the season, because it’s not inconceivable that he and Quintana, even in short bursts, might be among your best options to get outs when you don’t have a traditional starter available. Yeah, at that point you’re talking about a really crowded “bullpen,” but with expanded rosters this year and the DH, it’s not as if the Cubs are really unloading the bench each game. I mean, did you even realize that infielder Ildemaro Vargas is on the active roster right now? And that’s with the Cubs already having 10 pitchers in the bullpen!
Speaking of the bullpen, the Cubs are still hoping they’ll get Andrew Chafin (finger) at some point. The Cubs traded a conditional PTBNL to the Diamondbacks at the deadline knowing that he may or may not recover from his injury in time to contribute. For years, the guy has been a really good lefty reliever, so if he does get healthy, you want him in the mix. He threw off the mound at South Bend on Monday, but that’s really all we know at this point. The hope was maybe a return a couple weeks into September.
So, on the whole, you’d love to have all three of these guys back before the final week of the season to at least get some sense of how you can coordinate and integrate them into the starting/relieving mix. On paper, if healthy, these are pretty clearly three guys you’d want getting innings before some of the other guys in the pen right now.