Cubs pitching notes: Jon Lester to make spring debut Tuesday; flu sidelines Jose Quintana

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy outlined plans for Cubs starters early in the Cactus League schedule.

SHARE Cubs pitching notes: Jon Lester to make spring debut Tuesday; flu sidelines Jose Quintana
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Jon Lester

John Antonoff photo

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After rookie Adbert Alzolay’s start Monday against the Mariners, the big boys of the rotation get their turns: Jon Lester starts Tuesday at home against the Rockies, and Kyle Hendricks starts at home Wednesday against the Royals.

Left-hander Jose Quintana had his live batting-practice session scratched Sunday because of a flu bug going around camp. When he resumes pitching is a matter of day-to-day evaluation and lots of fluids.

All the starters except Yu Darvish — and now possibly Quintana — are scheduled for one inning each in their first starts because they’re going earlier in the Cactus League schedule than recent seasons.

“It’s really about managing the workload early,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said.

Darvish is expected to throw live BP on Monday, simulating roughly 15- and 10-pitch innings with a rest in between, then be scheduled for his spring debut.

Cubs, Morrow optimistic

Once-dominating Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has made no promises about when or if he can return to the mound to help the bullpen this season after joining the team on a minor-league contract.

But even after the recent setback with what the team called a “mild strain” near his right collarbone, the right-hander remains optimistic after initial strength tests that it’s just a minor “tweak” and he can resume throwing in a few days.

Even if it pushes an already slow-and-steady build-up into a season debut in May or later, Morrow recalls a similar start in 2017 with the Dodgers.

“I had a pretty successful year the last time I joined a team in June,” he said of his breakout season as a setup man for a World Series team (which included four scoreless appearances against the Cubs in the playoffs). “Different circumstances, but …”

To be clear, the Cubs aren’t relying on Morrow. And “bumps in the road” are expected along the way, Hottovy said. 

“But getting Brandon Morrow at any time during the year is beneficial to us,” Hottovy added, “whether it’s Opening Day, or it’s mid-June or it’s September.”

This and that

Closer Craig Kimbrel is expected to throw his first live BP of the spring Monday on a program for veteran relievers that should have him in a game about a week later. The goal is eight or nine game appearances or simulations before breaking camp, Hottovy said.

• Hottovy said the club might eventually use minor-league games late in camp to get some relievers the requisite back-to-back days of appearances to avoid the new rule requiring relievers to face at least three batters. The rule takes effect March 12.

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