Quantrill continues strong September with unconventional method

September 18th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- 's shortest season has been his longest.

The right-hander has had two stints on the IL and appeared in a career-low 17 games with under two weeks remaining in the regular season. Quantrill has pitched through pain, missed more time than he would have liked and reinvented his arsenal on the fly, but he’s ending his 2023 campaign on a high note.

Quantrill struck out three over 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball in the Guardians' 6-4 loss against the Royals on Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. It wasn’t Quantrill's cleanest outing, as he didn’t have control of his fastball and threw just one four-seamer, but he came one out away from going six innings for the fourth consecutive start since his return on Sept. 1.

Quantrill has yet to give up more than two runs since coming back from the IL with right shoulder inflammation, holding opponents to a 1.90 ERA and limiting batters to a .181 average in that span.

“I think he’s pitching [now] and trying not to find a slot that doesn’t hurt,” manager Terry Francona said pregame of Quantrill. “His velocity is the same, but [now], I think he’s able to pitch. You hear [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] say it all the time, ‘Hey, whatever you have -- command [it].’ Well, it’s hard to command when you’re trying to find a slot where it doesn’t hurt. You see guys start to get confident, and they start to do things they weren’t … .”

Before the injury, Quantrill had one start this season where he gave up less than three runs. He’s given up a combined five runs over four starts since his return, which is a number he matched or exceeded in a single start in four of his seven outings before the second IL stint.

Simply put, Quantrill has come back a different pitcher.

“I didn’t have a feel for the pitches [early in the season],” Quantrill said. “I was kind of fighting my body, but now, I feel healthy and have multiple ways to get teams out. We had to use a method I don’t prefer today, but [I] still got it done.”

That method was a high dose of curveballs and splitters. Of the 96 pitches (62 strikes) Quantrill threw against the Royals, 72 of them were either splitters or curveballs. He generated at least a 25% whiff rate against both pitches, and he froze batters with eight called strikes from the curve.

“As I survive longer and longer in this game, I think I’ve gotten to the point where you just have to take your pride out of it,” Quantrill said. “I want to be a fastball pitcher, but I think that team sees my fastball better than they see my curveball [and] splitter, so today we went curveball [and] splitter. Next time, I might be 90% fastball. I don’t really care how it happens as long as I get through my innings.”

It was the type of start the Guardians needed hours after they placed Tanner Bibee on the 15-day injured list with right hip inflammation, ending his season. Shane Bieber and Tristan McKenzie are set to return in late September, but Quantrill is a crucial piece to the rotation not only this season, but in 2024 as well.

The Guardians have much to figure out in the ‘pen, where Cleveland lost a two-run lead in the eighth when Trevor Stephan was tagged for four runs (three earned), but also most notably at shortstop. Gabriel Arias, whom the Guardians rave about defensively, proved he can make noise with his bat as well.

The 23-year-old smoked an opposite-field homer and added a sac fly against the Royals as he continues to compete with Tyler Freeman for the starting spot.

“It feels really good to have personal results, but also to help the team,” Arias said through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I feel really good about [hitting 10 homers]. I’m confident that I am able to do it and I know there are more to come.”

Arias took his time on what looked like a routine grounder to short from Bobby Witt Jr. in the third, resulting in an infield single and later a run, but Quantrill limited the damage.

It was an unconventional start for Quantrill, but the results were the same.

“[Quantrill] probably threw more splits than he has all year, but it was effective, especially against so many left-hand hitters in their lineup,” Francona said. “I thought he did a pretty nice job. … He’s been giving us six [innings] pretty much every time out since he’s been back.”