5:09pm: Manager David Ross said Quintana will throw a sim game this weekend, so his debut will have to wait a bit longer (via Levine).

4:45pm: Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana hasn’t pitched this season as a result of early July thumb surgery, but he could rejoin their rotation as early as this weekend, Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago relays. Quintana’s in line to throw a sim game at the Cubs’ alternate site Saturday, though the club could decide to bring him to the majors instead.

The loss of Quintana looked like a significant blow to Chicago’s chances when it occurred, but the first-place team’s rotation has managed to thrive – not just survive – without him. Cubs starters will enter play Tuesday third in ERA (3.33) and FIP (3.32), largely because Yu Darvish has returned to being one of the premier pitchers in baseball and Kyle Hendricks has been his usual front-of-the-rotation self. Meantime, Jon Lester and Alec Mills have posted sub-3.00 ERAs (albeit with far less impressive peripherals) across a combined seven starts.

Like Darvish, Hendricks and Lester, the 31-year-old Quintana brings an extensive MLB track record to the table. The longtime workhorse’s run prevention wasn’t as solid as it typically has been last year, but he still gave the Cubs 171 innings of 4.68 ERA/3.80 FIP pitching with 8.0 K/9 and 2.42 BB/9. Considering he’s due to become a free agent after the season, it’ll be interesting to see if Quintana enjoys a bounce-back over the next several weeks.

When Quintana does return, it seems likely he’ll take Tyler Chatwood’s place in the Cubs’ staff. Chatwood was dominant in his first two starts of the season, but he suffered through a 2 1/3-inning, eight-earned run nightmare against the Royals Aug. 6. Chatwood went on the IL this past Sunday with a back strain, and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Tuesday he’s seeking a second opinion from an orthopedic specialist, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score.

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