Quantrill solid in start using 'reliever routine'
RHP fills rotation need against White Sox with Plesac sidelined
CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been trying to piece together their rotation over the last week since Zach Plesac landed on the injured list with a fractured thumb, and Cal Quantrill delivered a convincing case on Monday as to why he deserves one of the starting spots.
Because Quantrill has worked strictly out of the Indians’ bullpen this year, he wasn’t stretched out to throw as many pitches as he probably would’ve liked, but he made the most of the 60 pitches he had, leading the Indians to a 3-1 victory in the nightcap of the doubleheader against the White Sox after Cleveland dropped Game 1 at Progressive Field.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We kind of had a soft number in 55, and he actually exceeded that a little bit. But I thought he held his stuff really well. The idea is trying to get him a little bit stretched out, but you don’t want to do it too much, too quick. But I thought he really did well.”
José Ramírez hit a two-run home run in the third inning -- his 13th of the year -- to give Cleveland a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Meanwhile, Quantrill finished his performance giving up just one run on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks in 3 2/3 innings. It marked the first start by a Cleveland hurler without permitting a walk in over three weeks (Plesac, May 7). Quantrill was pulled following a double play in the fourth inning after throwing 18 more pitches than his previous season high (42 in Detroit on Wednesday).
He has been solid for Cleveland out of the bullpen this season, owning a 2.03 ERA in 17 appearances entering Monday. Although his in zone percentage has jumped nearly 10% from last year, according to Statcast, he’s seen hitters make less contact on pitches in the zone this season. Much of his success had come using his changeup, as opponents were 3-for-21 (.143) against the pitch before the White Sox went 1-for-3 against it in his start. When things are working for you, why change it?
“Definitely threw more offspeed pitches than I have in the past maybe two or three weeks,” Quantrill said. “But I don't think we tried anything that I hadn't been doing for the last four or five appearances, just maybe a little more frequently.”
Quantrill started on Monday, but he didn’t want to break the rhythm that he’s gotten himself into. So, he kept the same routine that he’s been using as a reliever.
“He didn’t warm up long,” Francona said. “I think he threw 14 pitches. And he threw the ball like he’s been throwing it out of the ‘pen, which I think is really good.”
“I think it's easy to want to go back and try to do a starter's routine,” Quantrill said. “For me, the reliever routine has clearly worked better. So, kind of why not? Just keep doing it. Played catch before the first game. Prepared like that. Short 'pen, and then the game. I don't think it was anything special, just what was working, so keep working with it.”
The Indians still have a solid duo in Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale to lean on in their rotation. Sam Hentges has continued to make strides in his development in his short time in the Majors, and Eli Morgan will get another chance to make a first impression in better weather on Wednesday. But that still leaves a vacancy in the starting five that Quantrill will likely fill.
Francona said the Indians will continue to stretch Quantrill out so that he can throw a higher number of pitches, but they don’t want to rush him to a higher pitch count too quickly. Each time out, they’ll try to add a little more to his plate, but this won’t slow him down from getting the opportunities.
Quantrill had been a starter his entire career and was hoping to break camp this spring in Cleveland’s rotation. Even though the opportunity to get back to his primary role is now in front of him, he’s making sure to not view this situation through that lens.
“I think we've got a good team,” Quantrill said. “We've got a lot of good pitchers. Whatever route they decide to choose is fine with me. It's important to remember that starting, relieving, whatever, you've got to get through the innings that they give you. I don't think this was some sort of statement or anything like that. It was we needed a starter to go today, and I was prepared to do it.”