Quintana (thumb) has surgery; return TBD

Mills poised to fill spot in rotation; Epstein addresses diversity, safety

July 2nd, 2020

CHICAGO -- On the eve of the Cubs' first Summer Camp workout at Wrigley Field, the team has endured its first setback.

On Thursday, the Cubs announced that left-hander underwent a procedure that morning to repair a lacerated digital sensory nerve in his left thumb. The starter is expected to be able to resume a throwing program in approximately two weeks, when his status and timetable will be reassessed by the ballclub.

“There's some uncertainty right now surrounding his timetable,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a Zoom call on Thursday. “There's a best-case scenario in which it heals quickly and his thumb feels good and he can resume a pretty rapid ramp-up from that point. He's been built up [and] was pretty far along.

“But there's certainly another scenario in which the nerve takes longer to heal and he's going to be significantly delayed.”

The Cubs noted that Quintana injured the thumb on his pitching hand while washing dishes at his home in Miami last Saturday. The cut required five stitches initially, then Quintana underwent microscopic surgery on Thursday morning to determine the extent of the injury. The timing makes it likely that Quintana will open the 60-game season on the injured list.

The Cubs began reporting to Summer Camp on Wednesday, with the first official workouts slated for Friday in Chicago and South Bend, Ind.

Heading into the abbreviated 2020 season, the 31-year-old Quintana projected to be Chicago's fourth starter, behind Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester. Tyler Chatwood was the leading candidate for the fifth spot, with righty Alec Mills moving to the bullpen. Quintana's injury would presumably push Chatwood and Mills up into the Nos. 4 and 5 spots.

“This injury certainly challenges our depth in an area where we had some concerns already,” Epstein said. “So it's going to be important for certain players to step up and make the most of this opportunity. Clearly, somebody like Alec Mills is well positioned to capitalize on this opportunity and establish himself as a starting pitcher in this league.”

Behind Mills, the Cubs also have righties Colin Rea (working out at Wrigley Field) and Adbert Alzolay (South Bend alternate training site) on the 40-man roster.

Quintana is in the final year of his contract with the Cubs, following an up-and-down showing in 2019. Overall, the veteran lefty went 13-9 with a 4.68 ERA and 152 strikeouts against 46 walks in 171 innings pitched. Within that showing were bouts of inconsistency. For example, Quintana finished with an 8.58 ERA in his final seven turns after going 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous nine outings.

Worth noting

• Epstein praised Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for speaking with reporters on Wednesday in order to detail his personal battle with COVID-19. While Hottovy is roughly two weeks removed from testing negative for the virus, he endured a month-long battle.

“What he did in sharing his story so openly,” Epstein said, “and at such an important moment, really provided a service for our organization and really for the entire industry by reminding us all how serious this pandemic is.”

• Last month, Epstein noted that the Cubs were discussing the formation of a diversity committee to explore ways the organization can improve internally and also take action on racial justice. Epstein said Thursday the committee has already had its first meeting, and he expressed confidence that the group can make a difference.

“The way the committee was structured,” Epstein said, “it has real authority and I think a real opportunity to make a difference in several important areas where we have real room for improvement. I don't want to let our words get out ahead of our actions, but we'll keep you updated as we turn our aspirations into real action within the organization.”

• During his discussion with media, Hottovy said it was important for the Cubs to provide resources not only to players and staff, but to their families in regard to COVID-19. Epstein said players’ families will have access to testing and the team’s medical staff, among other resources, especially when players are away on trips.

• Epstein said the Cubs have been reconfiguring the setup at Wrigley Field to adhere to MLB’s protocols. The team has set up auxiliary lockers outside the main room to help with social distancing. Other resources (weight-room equipment, for example) will be moved to outdoor areas.