ARLINGTON, Texas — With Yu Darvish clearly struggling to find his command, a couple of Cubs pitchers got up in the bullpen and caused just about everybody to do a double take.
Steve Cishek and Jose Quintana were getting loose for the Cubs, with Cishek entering the game to get the final out for Darvish in the third inning of Saturday's ballgame. It was the earliest Cishek had ever appeared in a game in his big-league career (503 appearances).
Then it was Quintana, the Cubs' fifth starter, who came out of the bullpen to serve as the long-relief guy for Joe Maddon.
For starters, the Cubs didn't have a ton of options at their disposal for long men out of the bullpen. It was a close game (the Cubs were leading by only a run when Quintana entered) and Tyler Chatwood still doesn't appear to have earned the trust back of this coaching staff. Mike Montgomery — the other potential long-relief option in the bullpen — was slowed at the start of spring training with a shoulder issue and didn't have an opportunity to get fully stretched out.
Secondly, Quintana was never penciled in to start the Cubs' fifth game of the season. The Cubs have two off-days early in the season (last Friday and Tuesday), affording them the opportunity start Jon Lester and Yu Darvish on extra/regular rest for the final two games in Atlanta (Wednesday, Thursday), which they confirmed as the current plan as of Saturday night.
That means the Cubs don't actually need Quintana to start a game until next Sunday in Milwaukee, though he could get the ball in one of the first two games of that series against the Brewers.
That could work out well, too, as Quintana has owned the Brewers in his career — 4-1, 2.13 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 7 starts (42.1 innings). He also struggled mightily in two starts against the Braves (16.71 ERA, 3.29 WHIP) last season, so the rotation shuffling helps him avoid Atlanta and line up for that big series with the reigning NL Central champs.
The Cubs haven't yet said which game Quintana will start in Milwaukee, but either he or Cole Hamels should be rested for Game 1 Friday and Kyle Hendricks would be available for Game 2 or 3.
As for Saturday's game in Texas, Quintana came up big for his team in relief, striking out 8 in 4 innings and allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. Both runs were earned, but they very easily could've been of the unearned variety as David Bote's errant throw began the 7th inning where the Rangers plated a pair.
Still, Quintana left with the lead. Things went sideways in the 8th when Carl Edwards Jr. gave up a single, walked a batter and then served up a go-ahead 3-run homer to Joey Gallo.
"We did it that way and we had it planned a little bit," Maddon said of Quintana's 81-pitch relief appearance. "Q was good. Q gave us that chance to win right there. We made that error and that led to 2 runs, but we still had the lead going into the 8th. You got a really rested Carl — who's coming off a good camp — and then [Pedro Strop] behind him, so I felt good about it."
The end result was a really tough early-season loss for the Cubs in a game in which they led from the get-go after pouncing out to a 3-run first inning.
"It was just bad timing for a lot of stuff," Edwards said. "It just didn't go my way today."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.