Back in MLB's so-dubbed "Summer Camp," we learned that Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana had sliced open his thumb while washing dishes and would begin the season on the injured list. Into his spot in the rotation came Alec Mills.
Through two starts, Mills is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. His entire arsenal -- sinker, slider, change, fastball, curve -- has been working beautifully in inducing weak contact. In fact, his average exit velocity allowed is in the 99th percentile. Yes, he's in the top one percent at getting weak contact.
Meanwhile, Quintana threw a bullpen on Monday and is gearing up for a return.
Lefty José Quintana replicated his normal between-start bullpen routine on Monday. Threw 30 pitches. Next step is a 2-inning sim game on Thursday at the South Bend training site.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 3, 2020
The team is 8-2 and changing things up when they're going well should always give one pause. The Cubs' entire rotation has been excellent while the bullpen has been shaky on the whole, though showing signs of improvement. The starter ERA for the Cubs is 1.95 with the reliever ERA being 7.55.
Further, Quintana pitched to a 4.68 ERA (94 ERA+) last season. His days of being a frontline starter are long in the rearview mirror. His changeup isn't effective anymore. He's at his best when he's basically sticking to a fastball/curve mix.
You can see where this is headed: Put Quintana in the bullpen.
The rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood (pay attention to him, his stuff has never been an issue and now he's got command), Jon Lester and Alec Mills deserves to stay intact, untouched.
Quintana in the bullpen would get the normal boost in velocity now having to only pitch in short stints instead of conserve for longer outings. Relievers only need two pitches because they don't see the order more than once. His stuff would absolutely see a boost.
Cubs manager David Ross is starting to get a feel for who can be trusted in his bullpen. Rowan Wick appears to have locked down the closer role and looked great with a four-out save on Monday. Jeremy Jeffress has been outstanding in his limited time and seems to have earned a fireman role. Casey Sadler also seems to have earned the good graces of his new skipper. Lefty Kyle Ryan is a holdover who had a good year in 2019, though he's been dinged so far this year. Adding Quintana to the mix seems likely to give Ross another option he can trust while he's sorting through the rest of the muck.
Quintana will be back soon. It should be in the bullpen, not the rotation. One of those groups needs help and it certainly isn't where Quintana has been in the past.