Toward the end of last season, Jose Quintana ran into a couple of different problems. The first was fatigue, as Quintana threw 185 innings between Birmingham and Chicago when his previous single-season high was 102.
The second was the book the American League formed on him. Quintana got the hard part of pitching down by showing no fear busting righties inside. Of course, once those hitters started looking for the inside pitch, they discovered that Quintana struggled to come up with anything for the outer edge. Forget changeups or backdoor cutters/sliders -- he couldn't even hit the edge with his fastball on a routine basis. He had it working for one (glorious) start, but otherwise he became rather predictable.
The lack of variety, as well as swing-and-miss stuff, made him an easy mark during the offseason. It's easy to stack up his 3.76 ERA against his 4.23 FIP and his pedestrian strikeout rate (5.3 per nine innings) and see a guy who got lucky.
Fortunately, Quintana knows what lies ahead. Dan Hayes, who is starting to let his freak flag fly, asked Quintana what he worked on over the offseason:
Last season, Quintana benefited from the addition of a cut-fastball he learned in spring training. Right-handed hitters batted only .230 against Quintana’s cut-fastball compared with a .299 clip versus his fastball, according to Brooksbaseball.net.
Seeing that improvement, Quintana, who grew up a fan of Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte, said he intends to improve his arm-side command. After nearly two months off from throwing, Quintana went to work. He said he sees a significant difference as a result of the work he put in this offseason.
"I feel like I can pitch inside well, it’s just being able to command that outside part of the plate," Quintana said through a translator. "I’ve felt a lot of improvement. I started working on that way back in December. I’m starting to feel like it’s coming. I feel pretty good about it."
This will be worth watching when Quintana takes the mound early next month, as I assume it will be his "getting work in" task during the first half of Cactus League play. I'll also be looking to see if Quintana developed his changeup any, because if he could ever get comfortable with that pitch, he'd pretty much have the repertoire to be a poor man's John Danks (literally, by MLB standards).
Elsewhere in camp
*Kenny Williams misses the action of being a GM, and might eventually return to the position if he can figure out how to do it without killing himself.
*John Danks says he still has to build arm strength, but he's past the mental block and cutting it loose.