Chatwood had his own health setback recently, but Chicago finally had both pitchers back in the fold for a tandem outing Tuesday night at Comerica Park. The results were mixed in the Cubs' 7-1 loss to the Tigers, giving the North Siders plenty to ponder as they align their staff in the coming days.
"Him and Q are going to be really important for us," manager David Ross said of Chatwood and Quintana. "We need those guys to continue to work and get back to being who we know they are."
Chatwood was one of the feel-good stories out of the gates this season. After regaining trust as a swingman last year, the righty had earned a spot back in the rotation and then pitched masterfully in his first two starts.
"Chatty, you saw it early on," Ross said.
Chatwood piled up 19 strikeouts, walked four and allowed just one run over his first two outings. His arsenal was as electric as ever, but his cutter had new bite that was helping to neutralize left-handed hitters. Then on Aug. 6, he gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings in Kansas City.
A back injury shortly thereafter sent Chatwood to the 10-day injured list, creating nearly a three-week gap leading up to his start on Tuesday. Whether it was rust or lack of rhythm, Chatwood's return included a dozen batters faced, five walks, four outs recorded, three hits allowed and two runs on his line.
"I'm not going to make any excuses. I just wasn't good," said Chatwood, who threw 27 of his 55 pitches for strikes.
"I thought he was just searching for his rhythm," Ross said. "It looked like he was amped up to be back out there, a little quick off his back side, I thought. A little bit rushing."
When Quintana's injury required surgery on the eve of Summer Camp, the chain reaction pushed Chatwood up the rotation ladder and bumped righty Alec Mills to a starter role from the bullpen. Mills remains in that spot, so the Cubs initially brought Quintana back as a reliever.
The plan was to have Quintana follow Chatwood at the start of a clean inning. After righty Duane Underwood Jr. escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second with two strikeouts -- bailing Chatwood out -- Quintana took the ball in the third in Detroit.
"It was really good to be back. A lot of emotions," Quintana said of his 2020 debut.
For three innings, Quintana looked like he had not missed a beat. He retired the side in order in the third, needed just seven pitches in the fourth and got through the fifth without incident as well. The veteran lefty sat at 91 mph with his four-seamer and sinker, generated three whiffs with the curve and showed his changeup.
"Q looked great. I thought Q looked really sharp," Ross said. "Moving the ball in and out. I thought the breaking ball was really good. ... Getting him back in the game environment I thought was really nice."
In the sixth, Quintana's outing went awry when the first three batters reached base (single, RBI double and walk). Ross handed the ball to reliever Casey Sadler, who later allowed a one-out grand slam to Jonathan Schoop, skewing Quintana's final line.
"Tough loss for us tonight," Quintana said. "For the next one, I want to be better."
Both Chatwood and Quintana view themselves as starting pitchers, so one scenario for Chicago could be utilizing a six-man rotation. Otherwise, one of the two (or Mills) would need to move to the bullpen as the next-man-up option.
With off-days coming on Thursday and Monday, the Cubs have some flexibility with how to arrange their rotation for the four-game weekend series (featuring a doubleheader Saturday) in Cincinnati. Chicago also has a doubleheader on Sept. 5 against the Cardinals.
"I want to start games. And I want to help my team. That's all I want," Quintana said. "That's the reason we're here. And get results. It's not about one or two good innings. It's getting results. We need to win. And that's what I want to do.
"Hopefully, I'll be back in the rotation. I don't know what is coming for me, but I'll be ready for whatever situation Rossy needs me."