Quantrill's impressive 2021 comes to an end

October 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Cleveland finalized its pitching plans for the final series of the year with Eli Morgan and Triston McKenzie -- as scheduled -- set to start Friday and Saturday in Texas, respectively. On Sunday, Aaron Civale will jump ahead of in the rotation to start the final game of the season.

So, where does that leave Quantrill?

“[With] a very good handshake [and] a pat on the back,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said with a grin.

Quantrill’s 2021 season has officially come to an end after a three-run, six-inning performance against the Royals in a makeup game at Progressive Field on Monday. And even though he won’t make another start -- Monday's was his 22nd of the year -- the amount of information the club learned about the right-hander this season was invaluable.

Quantrill was on the bubble between reliever and starter entering Spring Training this year. He’s noted that his preference is to start, but he’s had limited opportunities in his brief big league career, making 18 starts in 2019 with the Padres and just three with the Padres and Indians combined in 2020. Because he’s been successful in his time in relief, it was an easier decision to move him to the bullpen to start the year when Logan Allen forced his way on the Opening Day roster with an electric spring campaign.

But once Cleveland started facing some obstacles with the pitching staff, Quantrill quickly became the hero. Shane Bieber, Civale and Zach Plesac all spent significant time on the injured list. McKenzie and Allen were sent to Triple-A, and suddenly the rotation boasted none of its Opening Day starters by mid-June.

The team needed a rock in its pitching staff, and although it took Quantrill a few starts to find his groove, he was nearly untouchable after transitioning into a starting role.

Since he joined the rotation on June 15, Quantrill has pitched to a 2.79 ERA in 116 innings, while holding opponents to a .223 average. And since the All-Star break, he’s been one of the best hurlers in the Majors, owning a 1.94 ERA in 14 starts, which ranked third entering Thursday of all big league hurlers who have thrown at least 55 innings in that span, trailing just Atlanta's Max Fried (1.74) and the Angels' José Suarez (1.83).

If the soon-to-be Guardians return all their starters next season, a rotation that consists of Bieber, Civale, Plesac, Quantrill and McKenzie has a chance to be one of the most dominant in the Majors. But the team will be relying the fact that Quantrill and McKenzie -- both of whom have little track record to look back on -- can continue the success they had in the second half of 2021.

As it looks toward 2022, the organization determined the best path forward would be giving Civale one more start, allowing Quantrill to end his heavy workload a week early.

“I think Civale expressed the desire to pitch,” Hale said. “It was a combination of a couple of things. I think Civale is a good choice, considering the time he missed. We talked about just going into the offseason feeling pretty good about yourself and health. No concerns there.”

Reyes scratched
Franmil Reyes, who was slated to DH in the series finale against the Royals on Thursday, was scratched from the lineup 30 minutes before first pitch due to neck stiffness. Harold Ramirez replaced him as the club’s designated hitter.

Clase as a ROY candidate?
Emmanuel Clase’s numbers speak for themselves. In his rookie year with a new organization, the 23-year-old righty has pitched to a a 1.33 ERA in 67 2/3 innings, striking out 72 batters with 16 walks and a 0.975 WHIP.

He’s spent the majority of the season as Cleveland's primary closer, racking up 24 saves, but his name has hardly been brought up in American League Rookie of the Year conversations, which Hale is hoping will change before the end of the weekend.

“It is tough that he’s not in that conversation because I think he’s had an outstanding year,” Hale said. “When you have a young pitcher like that, that you can kind of put at the back end and say, 'that’s a core piece,' and that core piece is your closer, I think that speaks volumes of what he has done and how comfortable we feel about his season and what he’s accomplished. If I had any influence over the writers or what have you, I would suggest they look deeper into his year from start to finish.”