After an up-and-down season, Jose Quintana hopes fixing his changeup can lead to a successful 2020 with the Cubs

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MESA, Ariz. — Jose Quintana’s name usually is accompanied with a sigh or wince when Cubs fans recall that top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease were traded to acquire the left-hander from the White Sox.

But Quintana merely is concerned with providing consistency in what could be his final season with the Cubs.

“First, I want to be happy with what I’m doing on the mound,” Quintana said Wednesday after throwing a bullpen session. “I want to get my career in a good spot and show all the fans at Wrigley how I can be.

“I want everyone to feel excited when I’m on the mound.”

Quintana has plenty of room for improvement after posting an 11.09 ERA in five September starts with 37 hits allowed in 18? innings.

That capped an unpredictable season for Quintana that has mirrored his 2½ years with the Cubs. The rough finish occurred after he posted a 4-1 record and 2.02 ERA in August.

Quintana is 33-23 since joining the Cubs (compared with a 50-54 mark with the Sox), but that’s offset by a 4.23 ERA — 72 points higher than during his time with the Sox.

The biggest room for improvement involves his changeup, a pitch he has struggled to master. Quintana, 31, threw his changeup only 11% of the time last season, which made him vulnerable because he doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball.

Right-handed batters hit .290 with a .466 slugging percentage and 19 home runs against him last season.

“Most of the time I don’t feel my changeup well,” Quintana said. “When I threw that pitch, I didn’t get swings. I need to throw all my pitches.

“If you saw all the games, I was just using two pitches most of the time. That time when I’m locked in, I use all my stuff. The sequence gets better and there’s more consistency in that.

“I feel great, and it’s a new year, a fresh year, and I’m excited to show what I’m going to do.”

Quintana said a four-seam grip similar to his fastball will help disguise his changeup more effectively. He made the change under the advisement of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.

“The four-seam grip will help me get more swings than with the two-seam grip,” Quintana said. “The best chance is to throw that pitch with confidence.

“That’s all I need and that’s what I’ve been doing. I want to show it in the game, and I feel great when I’ve been throwing it so far. There’s plenty of time to do a great job, so let’s get ready for the season.”

Because Quintana is projected as the fourth starter, he’ll have ample time to recover from the flu-like symptoms that kept him from the spring training complex earlier this week.

Quintana is 9-4 lifetime with a 2.87 ERA in 17 career starts against the Brewers — the Cubs’ first opponent — but he’s more consumed with mastering all his pitches in preparation for the regular season.

“I’ll be open to any series (manager) David Ross needs me,” Quintana said. “Now I have my focus on being ready for day one. If we start playing well, we’ll have a good year. That’s the goal.”

The Sox provided Quintana security with a five-year contract before the 2014 season, and the trade gave the Cubs cost certainty with his 2019 and 2020 options picked up.

But Quintana isn’t focused on the thought of free agency after the season.

“I’m focused more on getting my career at a good point,” he said. “I want to show everybody the reason I’m here and I want to help this team. I want to play the game like I’ve been doing throughout my career. That’s what I want to do every five days.

“I’m happy to be back and want everyone to be happy to see why they traded me to here.”

Quintana said his agent hasn’t spoken with the Cubs about an extension.

“I want to be here but I’m not focused on that,” Quintana said. “I want to do my things first, and we can talk later.”


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