Maddon: Aug. 1 'key date' for 2nd-half surge

Lester welcomes Quintana to Cubs' staff; Lackey on track to start Tuesday

Maddon: Aug. 1 'key date' for 2nd-half surge

BALTIMORE -- Mark your calendars, Cubs fans. Manager Joe Maddon said Aug. 1 is the day when it's time to start the second-half push.

"The first half, I was concerned about doing that too early," Maddon said on Saturday. "It doesn't make any sense. Why wouldn't you want to? Because the guys were fatigued from the last two years, and I thought if you get the whip out too soon, you'll be done by the middle of August. That's my experience. What proof do I have? Nothing, but I've done it before."

Maddon said he feels the players have a second wind heading into the second half of the season.

"Now's the time to push it a little bit," he said. "For me, [the key date] is Aug. 1."

Jon Lester welcomed the addition of Jose Quintana, acquired from the White Sox on Thursday for four Minor League players. The new Cubs pitcher will make his first start on Sunday against the Orioles.

"I know he's a very solid, good pitcher and has been doing it for a while," Lester said. "The thing I respect is his ability to take the ball every five days and pitch 200 innings and that he goes about his business the right way."

Cubs trade for Quintana from Sox

Quintana was excited about the opportunity to be paired with Lester.

"Jon is the best left-hander in the league, and now he's my teammate," Quintana said. "I'm really excited. I can't wait to talk to him and learn from him and help this team."

Quintana also is under team control until 2020, which means he and Lester will be part of the Cubs' rotation for a few years. Lester is signed through 2021.

"That's an added bonus in the deal," Lester said. "That's obviously something [Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] was trying to do in the beginning."

Lester called it a "win-win" situation for Quintana.

"He's pretty well set and established and knows his way around the city [of Chicago]," Lester said. "Now he just has to drive north instead of south and get acclimated to his surroundings [with the Cubs]."

Lester hurls six strong innings

The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is a couple weeks away, and Lester knows some young players may see their names mentioned. His advice? Ignore the rumors.

"The biggest thing is stay in your lane, do your job," Lester said. "It's not your pay grade to worry about what Theo does. It's your job to play the game. Whatever happens, happens. If we make a deal at the Deadline, great. It'll make our team better. If we don't, we have a really good team in this clubhouse, and we'll continue to try to play good baseball."

John Lackey, on the disabled list with plantar faciitis in his right foot, threw a bullpen on Saturday and is still on schedule to start Tuesday against the Braves. The right-hander last pitched on July 5 against the Rays and posted his seventh quality start, giving up three runs over six innings.

"Everything looks good right now," Maddon said of Lackey.

Lackey freezes Goodwin

Kyle Hendricks, on the DL with inflammation in his right hand, is scheduled to make his second rehab start on Monday night for Double-A Tennessee. Hendricks is expected to throw 65-75 pitches over five innings. If all goes well, he could be activated for the Cubs' series against the Cardinals next weekend.

Jason Heyward disappeared into the right-field corner and somehow caught Welington Castillo's fly ball leading off the Orioles' ninth inning on Friday.

"We lost sight of him," Maddon said of Heyward, who made another acrobatic catch.

Heyward also hit a two-run home run and a double in the Cubs' 9-8 win over the O's.

Heyward's amazing catch

"I told him after the game, 'That was a great game you played tonight in all facets of the game,'" Maddon said. "The ball went in that corner and I know how that is down there, and I said to myself, 'He's going to catch this thing.' Then you hear the roar [of the crowd].

"It doesn't surprise me," Maddon said of the four-time Gold Glove Award winner. "He has an incredible radar system -- he has sonar when it comes to fly balls."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.