The Rundown: Jose Quintana Giddy About Cubs Rotation, More Confident Carl Edwards Jr., Ichiro Retires, Baseball Hot Takes, March Madness

Add Jose Quintana to the list of my favorite Cubs players. The big left-hander is practically giddy about being the team’s fifth starter. It wasn’t that long ago that Quintana was considered the ace of the White Sox staff, and you could make a case that he’d be the number one guy on their staff this year. For the Cubs, he is almost an afterthought, and that says an awful lot about the starting pitching depth on the North Side.

“This is the best rotation I’ve been on,” Quintana said recently. “A couple of these guys have won championships; they know a lot about pitching; they have a lot of experience. It’s cool to be around [them] and to be able to go to the mound every five days with a good opportunity to win games.”

Because he was traded for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, Quintana does not get the general love that Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and even Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels get. And that’s probably unfair, as the third-year Cub has done everything the front office has asked of him since he was acquired in 2017. In his year and a half with the team, Quintana is 20-14 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He has been healthy and dependable and will give you 32 starts year after year. Expect more of the same from Q in 2019.

The key for this season will be commanding the breaking ball, a pitch with which Quintana has struggled throughout his career. The fastball and changeup are above average, but the breaking ball is nominal at best. It hurt him last year, as he hung enough of ’em to to drive up his FIP to an unsightly 4.43, a career worst. But he believes he may be a better pitcher this year.

“All my stuff was good,” he told reporters. “I’ve been working the changeup, and [my] fastball command was good. I feel great, and I battled a lot. I feel great. I can hit my spots when I want. I can get ahead of the count quickly, and my breaking balls were good.”

Most teams would love to get 30+ starts and 13-15 wins from their fifth starter. You can realistically guarantee Quintana will reach both of those benchmarks every year.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Anthony Rizzo entered Wednesday’s Cactus League action slashing .303/.395/.515 with seven RBI through 14 games. He has been a model of consistency since 2015 and hit his third home run of the spring last night.
  • I was super excited to watch the Cubs-Dodgers game last night but fell asleep before the first pitch. The teams tied 4-4, which means I didn’t miss much. I did wake up briefly to see Cole Hamels drive in a run, but I thought I was dreaming.
  • Because Tyler Chatwood is struggling to throw strikes, fans want to know if he is possibly injured. Nope. He’s just not very good right now.
  • A prospect to keep an eye on: Jared Young, a 15th-round pick in 2017 out of Old Dominion, has two home runs and a .286 batting average this spring after batting .300 with 16 home runs and 76 RBI at A-level South Bend and Myrtle Beach in 2018.
  • The internet was full of baseball hot takes all day yesterday, and the debate over whether which of Giancarlo Stanton or Daniel Descalso is a better hitter was one of them.
  • Math and analytics geeks will love this look at value surplus on the Cubs roster by CI correspondent Connor Johnson.
  • The Cubs YouTube channel will release new content today. If you didn’t sample the fare from last week, I highly implore you to watch the Lester episode of The Offseason.
  • Call me crazy, but I believe Carl Edwards, Jr. taking one for the team the other day portends a great season for the young reliever. It takes guts and confidence, something Edwards has lacked recently, to purposely hit another player. And whether you like baseball’s unwritten rules or not, the offense was probably happy to see their pitcher protect them. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras have already been hit three times this spring. “Spring training or not, you get to a point where you are kind of tired of guys getting hit,” Edwards said Wednesday. “Those are our big guys. Those guys are going to help us win a championship and help us win games.”
  • Joe Maddon is opening a new Wrigleyville restaurant called Maddon’s Post. The Cubs manager is teaming with Levy Restaurants, LLC and James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano, of Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Spiaggia on the new venture.
  • If you are wondering who will close in the absence of Brandon Morrow, keep wondering. That’s an honor not likely to be bestowed on one individual.
  • In 2016, the Cubs got off to the best start in all of baseball. Maddon would like to see a repeat performance this year.
  • Despite a lot of positive energy coming from Mesa this month, don’t forget things didn’t exactly go the way the Cubs had hoped for last season.


Spring Training Notes

Sad day: Ichiro Suzuki has announced his retirement, effective following today’s Mariners/Athletics game in Japan’s Tokyo Dome. Next stop, Hall of Fame.

Jimenez got paid by the White Sox yesterday. The rookie, who has yet to play a single game at the MLB level, agreed to a record breaking six-year extension with the team yesterday. The White Sox hold two one-year options that could bring the total value of the contract to $75 million. The deal also reportedly contains a $2.5 million bonus for winning MVP.

Pitcher Josh Tomlin opted out of his deal with the Brewers yesterday and the Braves immediately signed him to a minor league contract.

The Brewers have reportedly been talking with  Craig Kimbrel, though the extent of the negotiations are not known. Robert Murray of The Athletic wrote Wednesday ($) that “an agreement remains possible.”

Even with the addition of Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals offense has been relatively stagnant all spring.

It does not appear that Anthony Rendon and the Nationals are talking about a contract extension for the soon-to-be free agent third baseman.

The Astros expect to compete for a title this year. They’ll do so without any motivational speeches from Dallas Keuchel.

Bryce Harper got his first hit of the spring yesterday. I can neither confirm nor deny that the Phillies fans destroyed half the city in celebration.

On Deck 

I will be watching basketball all day long today and tomorrow. Stop by if you are in the area!

Extra Innings

More baseball hot takes as spring training comes to a merciful end: If you think Mike Trout and his enormous new contract accounts for how much you will pay for a hot dog this season, you need a better understanding of baseball economics.

Thursday Walk Up Song

Going Out in Style by Dropkick Murphys.Enjoy retirement, Ichiro!

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