Quiroz, 30, dazzles with glove, bat in 1st start

Ross: 'You root for guys like that. There’s a lot of smiles in the dugout'

September 21st, 2022

MIAMI -- As the Cubs’ season grinds to a close, there are many new faces getting looks at the big league level. The latest? The 5-foot-6 infielder , who made his first Major League start in the Cubs’ 2-1 win over the Marlins on Tuesday at loanDepot park. In his first at-bat of the night, he notched his first big league hit. He was responsible for some of Chicago's biggest outs of the game. 

And, Quiroz impressed his teammates and his manager enough that he’ll be getting another nod in the lineup for the series finale in Miami on Wednesday.

“Today’s the first time, right?” manager David Ross said. “It was pretty impressive. So he’ll be in there tomorrow.”

It all started when Seiya Suzuki went on the paternity list Saturday. The Cubs had an open roster slot, so the 30-year-old Quiroz -- who had hit .316 in September with Triple-A Iowa -- got the call. He made his Major League debut that night, pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ loss to the Rockies mere hours after his contract was selected from Iowa. Like many late-blooming Major Leaguers, Quiroz’s path to The Show is unique and a story of persistence.

After playing seven years in Mexico (from 2011-17), Quiroz had his contract selected by the Red Sox. Quiroz bounced around between Boston, San Diego and Tampa Bay before he was acquired by Chicago on March 25 for Harold Ramírez.

But then came a lackluster start to the year at Iowa (a .174 average through the first month of the season), followed by a left knee injury that sidelined Quiroz from early May to the beginning of August. Four rehab games in the Arizona Complex League later, Quiroz was back in Iowa. And after struggling through August, Quiroz found his groove in September -- as evidenced by his boosted average and a .426 OBP (up from .366 in August).

“To see guys that are journeymen Minor League players come up, be able to get their first big league hit -- they work really hard,” Ross said. “You root for guys like that. There’s a lot of smiles in the dugout, a lot of smiles on his great plays being made. What stands out to me about him and a lot of the guys that have all these stories [is that] they believe in themselves. These guys here have a lot of confidence, and they play like that.”

Now, back to Tuesday night. What exactly was it that made Quiroz’s showing noteworthy? Maybe it was how he came out of nowhere. Or maybe, it was that he just seemed to be making all of the plays. He had four assists and two putouts, including catching Jon Berti -- the league leader in stolen bases -- on a steal attempt, in conjunction with catcher P.J. Higgins.

Quiroz also set in motion two double plays -- one of the 4-3 variety and one that was 4-6-3 -- to provide key defensive backing for

With that help, Sampson had his third consecutive quality start, allowing just one run on eight hits over six innings. Sampson, who is not a strikeout pitcher (as evidenced by his three K’s), said that seeing Quiroz put his body in front of a 102.1 mph line drive in the first inning to knock it down and get the out at first bolstered the starter’s confidence. 

“It’s my game to keep the guys moving and keep the defense in the game,” Sampson said. “It’s fun for me to see them make awesome plays. … It all started with -- there was a flare hit to like, right-center, like just over second base, and I see [Quiroz] chugging for it and the guy lays out and gets like three, four feet in the air. And I was like, ‘This guy, he’s putting his body on the line. He deserves to get a hit.’”

Quiroz hit that single in his first at-bat. He roped the ball up the middle on a 2-2 count against Pablo López, fouling off two pitches before getting a changeup middle-outside that he could attack.

Oh, and then there was the bunt single that left Miami reliever Steven Okert throwing his head back in exasperation as Quiroz sprinted to first and loaded the bases. 

But Quiroz isn’t content with just getting a few “firsts.” As Chicago closes out its season, he’s focused on putting in the work to prove himself worthy of another look come next year. 

“It was a very humbling experience, really,” Quiroz said via interpreter Will Nadal. “I dreamt of this moment, I was thinking about it a lot. It's something that I've worked for. … I had the three at-bats back in Chicago [and] I didn’t really perform the way that I wanted to, so I wanted to make sure I went out there and performed well.

“I haven’t really done anything [yet]. I’m here to work hard and do the best that I can.”