Left-hander José Quintana might be ready to answer the bell — if not a few of the Cubs’ growing pitching questions — sooner than expected.
Scheduled to throw one more simulated game in South Bend on Saturday as he nears a return from a thumb injury, Quintana's status has become at least a little more fluid and definitely more intriguing, thanks to uncertainty in the rotation the next few days.
“There may be a possibility that his next outing could be with us,” said pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, whose starting depth has been taxed with two doubleheaders this week and a back injury that has sidelined Tyler Chatwood since Friday.
“We’re trying to determine in these next few days where everybody is,” Hottovy said. “Personally, I still think one more [simulated] outing would be good for him, but obviously we’ll know more in the next few days about where our guys are leading up to that.”
The question isn't whether Quintana will throw that scheduled session Saturday. Manager David Ross made that clear Tuesday.
But as the Cubs eye Tuesday in Detroit as the next time and place they'll need a fifth starter, the question for Quintana might be whether Saturday's work becomes a glorified bullpen session that keeps him in play if needed on Tuesday or whether he stretches out to something closer to a five-inning simulation that might put him on track for a return later in the week.
A big part of that figures to be the status of Chatwood, whose mid-back tightness appeared mild enough originally that he was pushed back only three days, until it worsened. He was to see a specialist this week, and the club might have a better idea by Saturday whether they can count on him for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Quintana was scheduled to throw a between-starts bullpen Tuesday after encouraging results in a four-inning sim game Sunday.
“Some really, really positive things came out of that,” Hottovy said. “He’s feeling better every time out. I really felt like the last outing on Sunday he was able to focus more on execution of his pitches and sequencing and the timing of his delivery, and a lot less about how his hand feels.”
Quintana cut his left thumb on a broken glass while washing dishes in late June just before traveling to Chicago, and when damage to a sensory nerve was subsequently discovered, he had surgery July 2 to repair it.
He has fared well in a throwing program that has included three sim games since then.
“Ideally going into this we all thought that him getting four outings was kind of what we wanted to do just compared to what all the other starters got to have leading up to the season,” Hottovy said. “We’ll have that conversation about where things are, obviously with the Chatwood situation and finding out where he’s at and what we want to do moving forward.”