Something has to give, and it ought to be Philip Humber.
Or maybe Gavin Floyd.
Whatever, someone has to give up his spot in the White Sox rotation to make room for Jose Quintana.
The kid left-hander just went down to St. Louis and won his matchup against Adam Wainwright, beating a Cardinals team that leads the National League in runs, batting average and homers. In 5 1/3 innings, Quintana allowed 10 hits, but induced two double plays and gave up only one run while striking out four and walking none in the 6-1 victory.
Tuesday night’s start was only the latest example, but Quintana doesn’t look like a rookie while pitching for a first-place team. He’s aggressive in the strike zone, he’s not afraid to pitch inside, and he’s willing to throw all his pitches at almost any time.
Savvy or fearless, or both, you make the call, Quintana gets out of trouble like a veteran. In his last two starts, Quintana has allowed 19 hits in 11 1/3 innings, but he has given up only three earned runs.
Quintana throws strikes, as evidenced by just six walks in 27 1/3 innings this season. He has not pitched enough to qualify for the leaderboards, but Quintana’s WHIP of 1.13 would rank in the top 25 in the majors and top 10 in the AL.
Point is, he gives the Sox a chance to win. Quintana is 2-1 with a 1.98 ERA, and could be even better if home plate umpire Mark Wegner hadn’t kicked him out of that game for throwing behind Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist. While Quintana didn’t win that game, he seemed to win clubhouse respect for protecting his teammates. Told you he didn’t look like a rookie out there.
Quintana’s recent starts came after John Danks developed a shoulder problem. After a second minor-league rehab start, Danks figures to return to his spot in the rotation next week. But it can’t be at the expense of Quintana. That’s not what a winning team would do, and this is about winning.
Smart managers and general managers put their players and teams in position to succeed. That begins with starters who give the Sox a chance to win everyday. Look, Quintana is the Sox’s most reliable pitcher behind Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, so how could the Sox take the kid down?
Answer: They can’t. Don’t even think about it. Fire yourself if you do.
Moving Humber to the bullpen or the minors appears to be the most likely option. Humber has been mostly awful since his perfect game, which was seven weeks ago, which is enough time to know his time’s up for now.
Trading Floyd also is an option. Trading someone is always an option when Kenny Williams is general manager of a team in contention (and even when it isn’t). Floyd will always be a guy who looks as if the lights are on but nobody’s home. He also will be a starter who can look unbeatable for four or six weeks and then throw batting practice for a month.
What makes Floyd potentially attractive to a trading partner is that other teams always think they can magically solve a talented pitcher’s problems. The Sox are one of those teams. In fact, they did it with Floyd. Time to move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
A third option involves reverting to the six-man rotation they used for about three weeks last season. Putting Quintana in the rotation would give the Sox three left-handed starters, which might be unconventional, but winning trumps convention.
It might turn out that Quintana and Sale wear down as the season wears on. Deal with that situation if and when it happens. Now, though, deal with recognizing who your best starters are and then putting into your rotation.