By Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — This season had just not gone well for Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana.
For the previous five years, you could always pencil Quintana in for 200 innings and an ERA around 3.50. He was “Mr. Consistency” for the White Sox and had plenty of bad luck as well, as he amassed more no-decisions than any pitcher in the big leagues since 2012.
Entering Wednesday’s start, Quintana was 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA with the Cubs since joining the team in a mid-July trade. Perhaps Chicago’s 17-3 blowout win against Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field will be a turning point for him. Quintana was shaky in the first inning, hitting two batters while allowing two runs, but his breaking ball was moving and he had six strikeouts in the first two innings.
Quintana finished with a quality starting, going six innings and allowing three runs on four hits and no walks while striking out nine.
“I felt pretty good today,” Quintana said.” I made my adjustments and started to hit my spots and get my outs.”
Entering 2017, trade speculation was always hanging over Quintana’s head, and he admitted after getting traded to the Cubs that the rumors had taken a toll on him.
“Guys put a little extra pressure on themselves to live up to the moment,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That is just human nature. With him, I think he is still settling into this uniform. He is such a wonderful young man and is so concerned. He wants to do well. I know he is going to be good here for a long period of time.”
Quintana felt welcome in the Cubs clubhouse as soon as he arrived.
“I feel comfortable here with all the coaches and teammates,” Quintana said. “Some things were new to me because I had never been (traded). I just try to do my job. Once the game starts, it is the same. You just try to do the job. My job with this team is to help them make the playoffs.”
Indeed, Maddon read the tea leaves correctly about Quintana improving.
“The guy keeps getting better game in progress,” Maddon said. “His approach was throwing sharper curveballs for a strike more often. There was more changeup involvement also. The fastball location through the game got better. Outside of the first inning, he pretty much nailed it.
“You can talk about the curveball or the changeup not being there. The fastball location has not been what it had been. That is why we have to help him figure that out. Things like that are very correctable. Sometimes, a guy is trying too hard. It can be as simple as that.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.