José Quintana could be throwing simulated innings by Saturday.
The southpaw threw what pitching coach Tommy Hottovy called his first "real bullpen" session on Wednesday, working on all of his pitches. Quintana's throwing program has remained on schedule since he underwent surgery on a cut sensory nerve in his left thumb four weeks ago.
"He said it feels good," said Hottovy, who joined Quintana's Wednesday bullpen via FaceTime. "He says it feels better every time out, which is obviously a positive. There's not one specific pitch that feels off."
There were times that Hottovy noticed Quintana's release point was off, but he doesn't attribute that to the injury itself. Quintana was only released to start throwing again two weeks ago. He worked up to throwing long toss on flat ground before finally pitching off a mound. Quintana threw 28 pitches on Wednesday, according to Hottovy.
Quintana said last week that he was more concerned with his shoulder and leg strength than his left thumb – his thumb felt "great." But Hottovy had only positive things to say about Quintana's physical fitness.
"Now it's more about, OK, let's see how his hand is feeling," Hottovy said. "Let's see the fine-tuning of all the things – the placement of the pitches, the shape of the pitches, how he's able to command the baseball – and I think once he gets comfortable doing that, you'll see things start to pick up fairly quickly."
The Cubs are targeting Saturday for Quintana's simulated inning, with batters standing in the box. Having someone in the batter's box will help the team better evaluate the movement of Quintana's pitches.
From there, the Cubs plan to cater Quintana's workouts to a five-man rotation schedule. He'll pitch a bullpen in between his simulated starts and build up his pitch count.
"He's in a very positive mood," Hottovy said. "The guy's mood's going to tell you how he feels."
Cubs injury update: Jose Quintana throws a bullpen; what's next in his rehab? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago