Three years ago, Jose Quintana failed to retire any of the first nine batters he faced in a Cactus League outing. A week later, Quintana and the White Sox agreed to an extension despite a 30.00 ERA, and the club has not come close to regretting it.
The results of one preseason start shouldn’t have any kind of effect on an evaluation for an established pitcher, and it probably won’t here.
We can say that Quintana’s showing in the World Baseball Classic on Friday certainly didn’t hurt. Starting for Colombia, he methodically held a pretty stacked United States lineup hitless through 52⁄3 innings. Brandon Crawford lined his 63rd and final pitch for a single, and Quintana exited with a 2-0 lead.
We learned that his luck isn’t limited to the White Sox, because Colombia unraveled after he left. Quintana’s runner came around to score on a single and a double, and the tying run scored on a dropped third strike of all things. Thus, we could add to our “Jose Quintana No-Decision Face” library.
WBC update: pic.twitter.com/ue3bt7Urse— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) March 11, 2017
Quintana’s poker face did a good job of masking his disappointment, if his postgame quotes were any indication of his real-time reaction:
"It is a pleasure for me to wear this shirt. I have no words to describe this moment, but I was very upset by the result. We had a lot of chances to be victorious," he said. "But as I said at the beginning, we did not come here to enjoy ourselves. We have the dream to go on to the second round. I think it's clear what Colombia is all about. We could not get the victory, but we did things the right way."
Meanwhile in White Sox camp, Reynaldo Lopez used the extra mound time afforded by absent veterans and made his best start of the spring. He limited the Brewers to just one hit over 41⁄3 scoreless innings, with all four strikeouts coming on the fastball. He stressed progress on his to-do list:
"I was working on my changeup," Lopez said through a translator. "… I was trying to also stay tall in my mechanics, because sometimes I get too low and I lose command of my pitches. That was one of the points that I worked today. And also just to throw strikes and to hit the target."
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A study in contrast for first-round picks who were among the first cut from big-league camp. Renteria had nothing bad to say about Collins’ first spring training on either side of the ball. He went 3-for-8 with two walks and three strikeouts over 10 plate appearances, and he also stole two bases for some reason. He’ll start the season in Birmingham, and I’m guessing the same can be said for Hawkins, who seems to merit a polite shrug at this point since he’s fighting a two-front war (plate discipline, health/athleticism). He did strike out just once in 13 spring plate appearances, for whatever that’s worth.
A year ago this week, the White Sox clubhouse melted down over Adam LaRoche’s retirement. This year, Rick Renteria is trying to make the team the family. Paul Konerko picked up on the same vibe earlier in the week, which reminded him of the Sox team he joined in the late 1990s.
"I walked in his office and I told him, I've played for a lot of managers, but he's a little bit different, in a great way," catcher Geovany Soto said. "I feel he has done a great job getting everybody together — the rookies, veterans, the pitchers and outfielders and infielders — as a team rather than separate groups."
Spring fluff story? Maybe, but different is still better here.
Speaking of which, Ventura is the same as he ever was in his post-managerial career. He won’t throw anybody under the bus, but he’ll defend himself:
“They weren’t in there,’’ Ventura said of his critics. “They don’t know [everything]. They can say whatever they want. I know what was going on. I handled it, and being on the inside and knowing what happened and how it was handled, I’m good with it.’’
Tyler Saladino was the emergency catcher for most of last season, and it’s a duty he’s taking seriously this spring.
"It's more or less now with some [velocity] and a lot better movement with these guys' pitches. I want to get used to receiving and being able to get strikes. Not take a sinker and turn it over and it would have been a strike and it's like, 'Oh, I caught it.' I actually want to try to get strikes."
It’s not important for players to understand specific analytics — it’s more up to the coaching staff to package that information in a way that can be received. That said, it’s cool to read somebody like Giolito use the jargon.
“I was looking at some numbers, and saw that I was down to six-foot-eight, six-nine, six-whatever. That’s not what I should be doing. Sure enough, video showed that I was flying open and yanking everything. So that stuff can be very helpful. Same thing with spin rate. Is the ball coming out of your hand at its best right now? It used to just be a feel thing, and now you can actually look at the numbers to back it up.
“I guess the way I’d say it is that analytics are tools that help. For a lot of stuff, you can just feel it, like, ‘I yanked that one and I know what adjustment I need to make.’ But after the fact, you can look at the analytics of it — you can look at the numbers — and that will confirm what you already thought, based on what you were feeling.”