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White Sox No. 2 starter Jose Quintana is likable, bankable

Updated: April 1, 2014 10:25AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chris Sale’s contract extension last spring: $32.5 million.

Jose Quintana’s reaction: priceless.

When Quintana got word of the deal before a Cactus League game last March, the White Sox left-hander clasped his hands together, looked up to the sky with a smile and said, “Oh, please, God. Please.’’

Quintana, 25, was dreaming that one day he’d be blessed with the same good fortune. At the time, he was largely unproven with one major-league season under his belt, albeit a proficient one with a 3.76 ERA over 1361/3 innings. When he followed that in 2013 with 200 innings and a 3.51 ERA (fifth among American League lefties), answered prayers for his own big deal began to look like a real possibility.

“I was happy for Chris when he got that contract,’’ Quintana said. “He’s a good teammate, he pitches hard in every start and the team has a chance to win every time he pitches.’’

A tough-luck pitcher who set an AL record with 17 no-decisions last season (he was 9-7), Quintana’s top goal is to comfortably surpass 200 innings.

He will make $500,000 this season and is likely to receive Super 2 arbitration status before next season. At 23, Sale got his extension a year before his first arbitration year, and general manager Rick Hahn likely will look to lock up Quintana long-term even though the Sox have five years of control.

“We did it with Chris last year when he was coming off his All-Star appearance and was top-six in Cy Young voting,’’ Hahn said. “We’re not afraid to lock in young guys with a deal that makes sense for both sides.’’

Quintana said such discussions haven’t taken place.

“Right now, we don’t talk about contracts,’’ he said. “I don’t think about that, just preparation for the new season.

“I want to help my teammates win, and I want to stay here for a long time.’’

There seems to be a good chance of that for the Sox’ poised and well-liked 25-year-old No. 2 starter from Colombia.

“He’s the man,’’ said Sale, a two-time All-Star. “To be honest, he was the most consistent starter we had last year. He had no blowup games, he pitched 200 innings and he made three more starts [33] than I did [30].’’

Sale remembers when Quintana, a scouting and development success story who was unprotected on the Yankees’ 40-man roster after the 2011 season and signed as a minor-league free agent by the Sox, pitched 52/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief in Cleveland in May 2012. He was immediately sent back out before returning two weeks later.

“He was so appreciative of that moment, you knew we were going to see this guy again and that he was going to be here for a while,’’ Sale said.

Quintana did return, and it was a game at Yankee Stadium on June 29 in which he had a rare bad “blowup” inning — four runs in the first — that really sold pitching coach Don Cooper. Quintana gathered himself, toughed out six innings and got the decision in a 14-7 victory.

“I remember saying after the game, ‘Now I like him,’ ’’ Cooper said. “He showed no quit, showed no hesitancy and continued to battle. And battle.’’

Quintana’s fastball tops out at around 90-91 mph, but a smooth, repeatable delivery helps him “throw all of his pitches for strikes at a good percentage,’’ Cooper said.

And he’s a quick study.

“You tell him something once, and he doesn’t forget it,’’ Cooper said. “He wants to be on top of it all. You like a guy like that because he’s into it as much as you are.’’

“Without offending anybody, I think it’s amazing that another team would let him go with the fluidity in his motion, the arm that he has,’’ Sale said. “He throws his first bullpen of the spring, and he almost looks like he’s ready for Opening Day.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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