José Quintana appears to be making good progress in his rehab following surgery to repair nerve damage to his left thumb. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy used FaceTime to watch the southpaw’s bullpen session Wednesday afternoon and told reporters Quintana “looked good” over 28 pitches. The next step, which could come Saturday, is to throw a simulated inning with hitters in the box.
From there, the outlook is a little murky. The Cubs never got to see Quintana in action because he sliced his thumb on a broken wine glass before returning to Chicago for summer camp, so they couldn’t establish a baseline for him in terms of his stamina. Then you factor in the lack of a minor league season, which means no rehab starts.
Quintana could head to South Bend to pitch against members of the Cubs’ alternate unit, which is probably the most likely scenario. Then again, he could continue with simulated appearances in live BP prior to games in order to get stretched out a little further. But what role does he step back into once he’s ready?
Alec Mills pitched very well in his first start Tuesday and plans to do everything he can to hold onto a starting role. Barring injury or a drastic change in performance, there aren’t any other spots open. It might make the most sense for Q to assume more of a piggyback role at first, perhaps with either Mills or Yu Darvish. That latter pairing might seem odd, but Darvish has a propensity for short outings when he’s not working efficiently.
By using him in relief, the Cubs could better control the matchups Quintana will face while also limiting his pitch count as he gets back into shape. That possibility becomes even more of an option if MLB does move forward with the idea of maintaining 30-man rosters throughout the rest of the season. It’s still early for both that and Q’s rehab, but we should get more clarity over the coming days.