Quintana to start NLCS opener for Cubs after wife’s health scare

LOS ANGELES  — Jose Quintana is the Chicago Cubs’ starting pitcher for the NL Championship Series opener even after his wife was forced off the team’s chartered jet a day earlier due to a medical issue.

Quintana stayed in Albuquerque on Friday with his wife, Michel, who fell ill during the Cubs’ cross-country flight after eliminating Washington on Thursday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Game 1 on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Quintana’s agent told USA Today that Michel Quintana had an irregular heartbeat. The team plane had to stop in New Mexico, forcing the Cubs to spend 10 hours in transit — including five hours on the ground to change pilots in Albuquerque, where they couldn’t leave the plane because of security rules.

“Nobody complained,” Maddon said. “It was an empathic moment. Everybody understood what’s going on. As a human being, you’re concerned for other human beings, so I thought our guys were wonderful the way we handled the entire situation.”

Quintana’s wife is feeling better, and the left-hander caught up with his teammates in LA on Friday night.

Maddon didn’t announce his starting pitcher for the opener until Quintana confirmed he would have no problem taking the mound for the third time in six days in the first playoff appearances of his big-league career.

Quintana started Game 3 of Chicago’s NL Division Series against Washington, and he threw 12 pitches in relief during the Game 5 clincher on Thursday.

“I really respect Q’s word,” Maddon said. “He said he’s ready to rock and roll, so we believe him.”

The Cubs acquired Quintana from the crosstown White Sox in July, giving up four prospects to add the veteran left-handed Colombian. He went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts down the stretch.

Quintana started Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday, pitching stellar two-hit ball into the sixth inning. He then came on in relief during the Cubs’ remarkable 9-8 victory in Game 5, getting two outs and yielding a hit and a walk before Wade Davis’ seven-out save.

Jon Lester will start Game 2 of the NLCS for Chicago at Dodger Stadium on Sunday night. He started Game 2 of the division series and added 3 2/3 innings of relief in Game 4 on Wednesday.

“I’m not worried about it,” said Lester, who threw 51 pitches in Game 4 against Washington.

“It’s kind of just work in between (starts). Just got to do it in the game as opposed to on the side. I don’t think it’s a problem. This time of year, you have to adjust and figure it out.”