Poised rookie Jose Quintana has been huge surprise, even to Sox’ brass
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org June 21, 2012 8:38PM
Chicago White Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
BREWERS at Sox
The facts: 7:10 p.m., CSN,
The pitchers: Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (8-2, 2.46).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Saturday: 6:15 p.m., Fox-32,
670-AM, 97.5-FM. Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01).
Sunday: 1:10 p.m.,
Ch. 9, 670-AM,
97.5-FM. Mike Fiers (2-2, 3.60) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.53).
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:52AM
Teammates, coaches and manager Robin Ventura are raving about the poise of Jose Quintana, the White Sox’ 23-year-old, strike-throwing left-hander who has pitched in seven major-league games.
While Quintana wouldn’t be the first rookie to make a great first impression before fading, he has shown enough against a series of good teams to convince the Sox he’ll endure the test of time. Quintana doesn’t look poised because he doesn’t know better; he looks poised because he knows he’s good.
‘‘Poise comes from confidence, having a great arm and a great delivery,’’ bullpen coach Juan Nieves said. ‘‘He has all of those.’’
Nieves, who was 22 in 1987 when he became the first Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and native of Puerto Rico to throw a no-hitter, can relate to Quintana. He speaks his language and has stayed close since Quintana arrived at spring training after the New York Yankees let him go, despite his 10-2 record and 2.91 ERA at Class A Tampa in 2011.
Sox scouts Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed liked Quintana’s delivery and ability to command both sides of the plate. So with room on their 40-man roster, the Sox jumped at the opportunity to sign him as a minor-league free agent.
Still, the Sox didn’t expect Quintana to be an important piece of their rotation seven months later, with a 1.53 ERA in 351/3 innings and one walk in his last five outings. They remain cautiously optimistic about his future.
‘‘The kid and our player-development and major-league staffs deserve a ton of credit for how he’s responded to the opportunity, but it’s not like he is a finished product just yet,’’ assistant general manager Rick Hahn said.
With the help of pitching coach Don Cooper and Nieves, Quintana now has a four-pitch arsenal. Cooper gave Nieves the assignment of adding a pitch to go with Quintana’s fastball, curve and changeup.
‘‘Coop really loved his delivery,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘He told me in spring training, ‘Show him the cutter.’ This kid has taken the cutter to the next level and made it a darned good pitch.’’
Quintana’s velocity is nothing special (90 to 91 mph), but his command has been. He also is perfecting a sinking, two-seam fastball and improving his changeup.
‘‘He’s a quick learner and has a good feel,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘It all comes from having a great, repeatable delivery.’’
Quintana is pitching without fear. He has impressed teammate Paul Konerko by not backing down from running the cutter in on right-handed hitters.
‘‘He’s a left-hander that can really bury the ball in on righties,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘There’s not a ton of those guys out there.’’
There also aren’t a ton who can strike out Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Andre Ethier, as Quintana did during his eight scoreless innings Sunday in Los Angeles, on fastballs up and in.
‘‘That is a very tough pitch for lefty-on-lefty,’’ Nieves said, ‘‘because you really have to stay on that pitch a long time. He was really able to throw that ball up and in and strike him out a couple of times.’’
The Dodgers were the latest in a list of tough opponents for Quintana. He also has performed well against the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. After he faces the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, he’s scheduled to face the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Poise is required for that kind of schedule, especially for a rookie.
‘‘He’s calm, he’s serene,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘He doesn’t get anxious. Mistakes don’t bother him. We see it every day in the bullpen and when he pitches. The whole package is coming together. It’s wonderful, and he’s healthy and fresh. What else can you say? The sky is the limit.’’