Best friend and 'bulldog': Quintana ready to impact Mets in '24

March 8th, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets have seen two different versions of . In the locker room, he is one of the nicest guys on the team. He is everyone’s best friend, it seems. Quintana wants to see everyone on the roster do well on the baseball field.

Quintana talks about the art of pitching with young teammates such as José Butto and Tylor Megill. They discuss ways to attack the strike zone. He wants them to throw strikes and bring down their walk totals.

His relationship with catcher Francisco Alvarez goes without saying. Quintana has taught Alvarez how to call better games. When he is not pitching, Quintana always talks to the 22-year-old about the game of baseball.

“He tells me, ‘Hey, you see that pitch. Why don’t you [call] the next pitch [to that certain hitter]?’” Alvarez said about Quintana. “He is a very good friend. He is very friendly to everyone in the clubhouse. He is one of the best examples on our team. … He pays attention to everything in the game.”

Quintana is paying it forward. He remembered when he was a younger player, veterans would give him sound advice.

“Jake Peavy talked to me a lot. Jake Peavy was a great mentor,” Quintana said. “I had the opportunity to play with Jon Lester and Cole Hamels. They were always good with me. They always gave me good advice on reading swings and how to pay attention in the game.”

When he is healthy, Quintana shows another side of himself as a great competitor on the mound. Last year, he missed the first half of the season because of a stress fracture in his left rib. Once he returned after the All-Star break, Quintana was the second-best starter on the Mets behind Kodai Senga. In 13 games, Quintana had a respectable 3.57 ERA. He has a five-pitch mix -- including a sinker, a four-seam fastball and a curveball. The fastball is clocked no more than 93 miles per hour. It’s about command with Quintana. The chase for velocity is not in the cards.

“He is going out there to compete. He really flips the switch,” teammate Brandon Nimmo said. “It surprised me. He is such a nice guy. He is a caring and thoughtful guy off the field and in the clubhouse. On the field, he is just a bulldog out there and wants to win as badly as anybody.”

Imagine if New York had Quintana the entire season in 2023. Nimmo thinks about it often. Yes, losing closer Edwin Díaz to a right-knee injury was a big blow to the franchise that lost 87 games. But the rotation took a hit with the absence of Quintana.

“José goes out there and gives everything he has every single time,” Nimmo said. “His absence was a contributing factor last year, and we are just hopeful we can have him for the whole year.”

It’s a new year, and the Mets will hopefully have Quintana for a full season. On Thursday night against the Nationals, Quintana was solid for three innings, striking out six batters and allowing an unearned run in a 3-1 victory.

The Mets haven’t announced their starter for Opening Day on March 28 against the Brewers at Citi Field. Would Quintana like that assignment? You bet. The last time he was an Opening Day starter was in 2017 for the White Sox.

“It would be an honor,” he said. “We don’t know who it’s going to be yet. It’s always special for Opening Day. Let’s see who it’s going to be. I had the opportunity one time in my career. It was amazing.”