With José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood both back from the injured list on Tuesday, the natural question for the Cubs would seem to be: Who gets the boot to the bullpen when Quintana is ready and presumably slotted into the rotation for the final few turns of the season?
But one day after back-of-the-rotation starter Alec Mills rebounded from a short start against the Cardinals to beat the Tigers, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy on Tuesday said they might have room for all their starters heading into September.
“With doubleheaders the next two Saturdays, we have the opportunity to go with a six-man rotation,” Hottovy said during a guest appearance on the Cubs Talk Podcast. “I don’t know how that’s going to play out exactly.”
Part of that is because off days on the schedule Thursday and Monday allow the team to manipulate the rotation order before and after the four-game series in Cincinnati that includes that first doubleheader.
Chatwood slotted back into the rotation Tuesday, with Quintana backing him up as a long man out of the bullpen for the game. Either could start again during the Cincinnati series, and both could be in play for the doubleheader starts against the Cardinals the following Saturday.
They have 14 games in 13 days scheduled after Monday’s off day.
“We have an opportunity to utilize that as a way to get guys some starts, especially in those doubleheaders,” Hottovy said.
The sixth day after the Sept. 5 doubleheader is the Cubs’ series opener against the Brewers — one of Quintana’s favorite opponents (9-4, 2.87 in 17 career starts).
For now everything seems on the table as the Cubs let the next week or two play out with their pitching staff, and as Hottovy and manager David Ross await whatever help Monday’s trade deadline might bring.
“We’re not writing off anything in terms of the rotation. We’re not writing off anything in terms of the bullpen,” said Hottovy, whose bullpen had only one other lefty, Kyle Ryan, before Quintana was activated Tuesday.
“I think guys understand the uniqueness of this season and just how a 60-game season plays out,” Hottovy said. “This is a guy, too, who is going to be a free agent next year, and there’s guys [of that status] that are going to want to prove they can do certain things. But is it going to hurt him if he makes four starts this season or 10 starts this season?
“As long as he’s healthy and pitching well, and he’s Q, he’s going to be in a good spot.”
Quintana said Monday he’s excited to be back and show what he can do after making a full recovery from the bad cut and sensory nerve damage he suffered June 28 on a broken glass.
“I just want to help the team keep winning games,” he said. “I’ve been in the bullpen enough times, and it’s not new for me. I just want to go to the mound and do my job.”