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With new grip, Quintana eyes '20 rebound

Hendricks sharp in Cactus debut; Lackey visits Cubs camp
@MLBastian
February 26, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- José Quintana did a series of sprinting drills on the Cubs' agility field on Wednesday morning. Between runs, the pitcher messed around with a soccer ball, kicking it to teammates and with training staffers. Quintana was smiling, and for good reason. The left-hander had just thrown off

MESA, Ariz. -- José Quintana did a series of sprinting drills on the Cubs' agility field on Wednesday morning. Between runs, the pitcher messed around with a soccer ball, kicking it to teammates and with training staffers.

Quintana was smiling, and for good reason. The left-hander had just thrown off a mound and gone through a workout, showing he was over the flu bug that sidelined him for a few days earlier this week. Quintana expressed excitement for his upcoming live batting practice session on Friday, and sounded especially eager for the 2020 season.

"I want to feel happy with what I'm doing on the mound," Quintana said. "Get my career in a good spot and show the fans in Wrigley how it can be, how everybody can feel excited when I'm on the mound. That's the reason we're here."

Quintana knows many Cubs fans still have not really warmed up to him, given the high cost (Dylan Cease and Eloy Jiménez, among others) for the North Siders to reel him in from the White Sox ahead of the 2017 Trade Deadline. Quintana also knows that last season's tough finish (8.58 ERA over his final seven starts) did not help matters.

After discussions with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, Quintana switched his changeup grip over the offseason, moving to a four-seam setup after using a two-seam method. Quintana said this will allow the pitch to look more like his primary fastball and, perhaps more importantly, give him the confidence to use the offspeed offering more.

Last season, opposing batters hit .338 and slugged .538 against Quintana's changeup, per Statcast. He also only featured it 11% of the time, allowing hitters to hone in on his fastballs and curve.

"I think the four-seam grip is going to help me more get swings than a two-seamer grip," Quintana explained. "But, I think it's the best change to throw that pitch with confidence. That's all I need. That's what I've been doing. I want to show you in the games."

Lackey swings by camp

There was a familiar face wandering around the practice diamonds at Cubs camp on Wednesday morning. Former pitcher John Lackey was on hand in a Chicago uniform, talking with players and watching the workout, at the invitation of manager David Ross.

"I think he's here for a haircut," Ross quipped. "Yeah, we talked a little bit about it. I think he wants to be around the game a little bit -- as shocking as that may be to you guys. He's a guy that really has a lot of knowledge. I joke with him all the time, he's starting the alphabet in rings. He's got the A, B and the C."

That would be Anaheim (2002), Boston ('13) and Chicago ('16), where Lackey played over his 15-year career, in addition to St. Louis.

Lackey's former teammates enjoyed reconnecting with him, too.

"I got to hang out with him for a minute," Kyle Hendricks said with a laugh. "I love when he comes around, man. It was awesome to see him. ... He hit us with some one-liners again like he always does. He's just the best."

Worth noting

• Hendricks logged two innings in his Cactus League debut with catcher Victor Caratini behind the plate, setting the tone for an 8-0 win over the Royals on Wednesday at Sloan Park. The right-hander struck out one, allowed an infield single and induced three groundouts.

"It's fun just getting back out there, getting back in the rhythm of the game," Hendricks said. "It was just good to get my work in. I felt pretty good overall. Maybe got a little quick on some, especially the last hitter or two of the second inning there. But, overall, Vic and I were on the same page, got what we needed out of it for the first one."

• On Wednesday morning, Ross raved about how outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has been "really staying inside the ball" with his swings in batting practice. Souza then showed precisely what Ross meant with an opposite-field single off Royals lefty Tim Hill in the fourth inning.

• The Marquee Sports Network announced a carriage deal with Wow! Internet, Cable and Phone on Wednesday. Wow! will begin carrying the Cubs' new regional network in the Chicagoland area begining on March 13.

• Right-hander Dillon Maples (no Cactus League appearances yet) is slated to throw live BP on Thursday. Lefty Brad Wieck (away from team for undisclosed reasons) is expected to rejoin the Cubs later this week.

Up next

Right-hander Colin Rea, who is vying for the lone vacancy in the Cubs' rotation, is scheduled to start for Chicago on Thursday in a 2:05 p.m. CT tilt against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz. Righty Tyler Phillips is slated to take the ball for Texas. Slugger Kyle Schwarber, who did not play Wednesday, might be in the lineup for the Cubs.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.