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Quintana thrilled to represent Colombia

'I believe in this team,' says talented lefty, who's no stranger to spotlight
MLB.com @philgrogers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There are always lots of eyes on Jose Quintana when he pitches. But it won't just be Major League scouts and Chicago fans who focus on the White Sox lefty his next time out.

Quintana, expected to face the United States on Friday at 6 p.m. ET at Marlins Park (shown on MLB.TV and MLB Network), would have his own large rooting section. After all, he'll be representing his homeland, Colombia, in the World Baseball Classic.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There are always lots of eyes on Jose Quintana when he pitches. But it won't just be Major League scouts and Chicago fans who focus on the White Sox lefty his next time out.

Quintana, expected to face the United States on Friday at 6 p.m. ET at Marlins Park (shown on MLB.TV and MLB Network), would have his own large rooting section. After all, he'll be representing his homeland, Colombia, in the World Baseball Classic.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Quintana's parents and many longtime friends are traveling to Miami to watch the 28-year-old lefty work the Pool C opener against a U.S. team featuring Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton.

"It's an honor for me,'' Quintana said after an afternoon workout at CenturyLink Sports Complex, the Twins' spring home. "I'm really excited for this tournament. It's the first time for us in this tournament. Everybody's excited. Everybody's happy and ready to go Friday.''

Quintana has been pursued by at least a half-dozen teams needing pitching this offseason, as the rebuilding White Sox made him available after trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. The asking price for Quintana has been extremely high, however, as you'd expect for a pitcher who has a 3.41 ERA over almost 1,000 innings and is signed through 2018, with team options for '19 and '20.

This start in the Classic is a high-profile showcase for Quintana, but not one that he really needs, according to Jim Leyland. The Team USA manager dreaded the trips to Chicago when his Tigers would have to face either Sale or Quintana.

"It's a big challenge,'' Leyland said of facing Quintana. "He's really good. I've seen him firsthand, managed against him. He's a really good pitcher. There's no question about that. Some of our guys have faced him all the way. He's a very talented guy. It'll be a big challenge to face him, no doubt about that, but when you're in something like this you're going to see good players, good pitchers. This is the big leagues, so to speak.''

Video: Leyland is readying Team USA for the Classic

Quintana's acquisition is arguably the White Sox best move since they won the 2005 World Series. He was only 22 when he became a Minor League free agent with the Yankees and the Sox pounced on him. Quintana had not pitched above Class A Advanced, but the recommendations of scouts Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed were so strong that then-GM Ken Williams signed him to a Major League contract.

Quintana has been as remarkably consistent as he has been healthy, throwing at least 200 innings each of the past four seasons. His low-drama style works well with baseball's metrics, as he seems to sneak into the top 10 in Wins Above Replacement among starting pitchers every season. The one thing Quintana hasn't done is pile up wins, with the 13-12 record in 2016 marking his first time in double digits for victories.

"There's a chance that [having Sale as a teammate] might have impacted him from a fan perspective, but not from a baseball perspective,'' Leyland said. "Everybody really has respect for him. I think it's one of those things where baseball people know how good he is, but maybe fans don't get quite as much exposure because Chris was there. The teams that are competing against him, when you know he's pitching, you get pretty alert quick.''

Quintana did not leave the White Sox camp to participate in the WBC 2017 qualifier in Panama City, Panama, but he was thrilled when his countrymen went 3-0 to advance.

"We watched the games in Arizona in Spring Training,'' Quintana said. "I was real excited watching my teammates play. I couldn't go, but I was happy they did it before.''

Quintana is joined by Braves ace Julio Teheran on Colombia's roster for the Classic. They will have to be at their best to keep Colombia alive as one of the two teams with a chance to advance to the second round in San Diego next week, but Quintana insists they have a shot at joining Israel in making noise as a first-time entrant.

"I believe in this team,'' Quintana said. "I can talk about this team. We have a lot of talent here, younger guys with experience in the big leagues, good stuff. We have a lot of good energy here. I think we have a good chance to make it to the second round.''

Edgar Renteria, whose single in the 11th inning of Game 7 gave the Marlins a World Series championship behind Leyland in 1997, is on Colombia's coaching staff. The roster includes Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro and brothers Donovan and Jhonatan Solano.

Quintana, like other starters, will work with a 65-pitch limit in the first round. He threw only 14 pitches in two innings against Colorado in his first start for the White Sox this spring, so maybe he's the exactly the right man to face the stacked United States lineup.

Video: COL@CWS: Quintana fans Reynolds swinging in the 2nd

"It never changes,'' Quintana said about his approach. "Just attack the zone and trust your defense, especially when you're limited with pitches. That's my focus. Just attack the zone earlier. We know they have a lot of All-Star players. We try to just focus on our job.''

Quintana admits a victory over the United States would be "huge'' for Colombian baseball, but really, at this point, this figures to be a no-downside experience for him and his teammates in the red, yellow and blue uniforms.

"I think it's a good opportunity for Colombia,'' Quintana said. "Everybody will know our country.''

That includes scouts from the Astros, Pirates and other teams that have been connected with Quintana so often since the Winter Meetings. But it's nice to see Quintana as something more than the object of persistent trade rumors.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox, Colombia, Jose Quintana