ST. LOUIS – The 2022 version of José Quintana bears little resemblance to the pitcher that had a 6.43 ERA and gave up 12 home runs in 63 innings last year in stints with the Angels and Giants. In fact, he looks more like the 2016 version of Quintana, an All-Star with the White Sox.
After his solid bounce-back with the Pirates in the first four-plus months of this season, the veteran left-hander was traded to the Cardinals on Monday and will make his debut with his new club on Thursday at home against one of his other former teams, the Cubs.
“I think it’s a special opportunity that’s come about this midseason,” Quintana said. “It’s a special opportunity in my career, on a team with such tradition and that’s fighting for something big. The idea is to come here, help and be able to do my job.”
That opportunity would not have been possible without his turnaround in Pittsburgh. In 20 starts this season for the Pirates, the native of Colombia has a 3.50 ERA in 103 innings, with 89 strikeouts and 31 walks. Quintana has logged his best numbers this year since his aforementioned 2016 campaign in ERA, FIP (3.24), walk rate (7.2%) and ERA+ (119), among others. With his repertoire of a four-seam fastball, curve, changeup and sinker, he has a 2.0 WAR (Baseball-Reference) and along the way, has won his first three decisions since 2019.
“A lot of work, but more than anything, rediscovering my best mechanics,” Quintana said of his 2022 turnaround. “Being able to repeat my delivery consistently and get back to my command, compared to when I was having problems.
“Getting back to being the guy I always was and being able to manage the game. And attacking the zone earlier [in counts] has been the advantage.”
Part of Quintana’s offseason work was a brief stint with the Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter League’s 2021-22 season.
“Very important,” Quintana said of his two starts in the Dominican. “That was the goal: Go there to look for more consistency in the zone, strengthen my command and the things that have kept me in the game for so long. I was able to do it, thank God. I was able to fix my mechanics and here we are.”
“Veteran guy, been around,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Mármol of Quintana. “We’ve faced him quite a bit. He knows what he’s doing. He uses his stuff in a way that makes him super effective. Very confident in his abilities. When we looked at adding a left-handed starter after losing Matz in the rotation, he fits us really well.
“The reality is we lost Flaherty, we lost Alex Reyes, we lost Matz recently. We needed to add, in order to stabilize the rotation. Getting Quintana and Montgomery was a need that was properly filled.”
With the Cardinals going into Thursday 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central and a half-game out of the last NL Wild Card, Quintana is excited to be part of a pennant race for the first time in three years, when he was part of a Cubs team that was bested by the Cardinals for the NL Central crown.
“I really want [to be in the playoffs],” said Quintana, who has pitched 13 1/3 career post-season innings, in 2017 with the Cubs. “That’s why we’re here, to win. The opportunity that I’m being given here is big. I think important things are coming. Getting to the playoffs and fighting to get to a World Series is the most important thing in the game.”