The Chicago Cubs are going to turn to their newest starting pitcher to go up against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers in game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday night. Jose Quintana has not been confirmed by the club, though rumors say the early word out of Chicago says he is the most likely candidate to get the ball. The development is a bit of a surprise only because the former Chicago Whitesox player who came over around the trade deadline pitched in relief on Thursday night.

Chicago Cubs starter pitched in relief

Quintana came in against the Washington Nationals late in the 7th inning as his Cubs attempted to hold a shrinking lead against the Nats in the decisive game of the NLDS.

According to those close the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the club feels as though his outing was short enough and low stress enough that it basically counted as his usual side throwing work he would do in preparation for his next regular start.

That determination likely explains why Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to pull Quintana after such a short outing, especially considering the Cubs' skipper then had closer Wade Davis pitching 2.1 innings and over 40 pitches. Quintana threw just 12 pitches in contrast en route to his first relief outing since his rookie season in 2012.

The announcement continues a shift for Quintana from being a starting pitcher the team had a hard time relying on shortly after his arrival on the Cubs, to someone the club clearly feels can go toe-to-toe with the best pitchers in baseball.

Quintana struck out 12 batters in his Chicago Cubs debut after the trade brought him across town.

After that outing, the young pitcher, who is under team control for several more seasons struggled. A lack of command was blamed for a string of about five straight starts where he gave up far too many homers and struck out too few.

Strong playoffs start for Jose Quintana

As the calendar turned to September, Quintana seemed to regroup and find himself, turning back into the potential team ace that the Cubs thought they had acquired back in July.

After a bumpy final start of the season, Quintana got the ball in Game 3 of the NLDS and proceeded to throw 5.2 innings of two hit, one unearned run baseball to go with seven strikeouts.

After Thursday night, Quintana, who is in his first career postseason, has managed to throw 6.1 innings in the playoffs without allowing an earned run. On Saturday, he and his Chicago Cubs teammates will square off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rematch of the 2016 NLCS.