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Quintana's potential seen 10 years ago in DR

Former coach recalls Cubs starter had talent, motivation as a teenager
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Chantres was a coach in the Yankees' organization in 2008 when he first saw Jose Quintana at the team's Dominican Republic academy.

"I still remember to this day, walking down a path and to my left, I see him throwing, and I said, 'Who's this?'" Chantres said of the then-19-year-old lefty. "I keep walking, and I get to the fence and he's pretty good. It was just the way the ball was coming out of his hand. The arm worked nice."

MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Chantres was a coach in the Yankees' organization in 2008 when he first saw Jose Quintana at the team's Dominican Republic academy.

"I still remember to this day, walking down a path and to my left, I see him throwing, and I said, 'Who's this?'" Chantres said of the then-19-year-old lefty. "I keep walking, and I get to the fence and he's pretty good. It was just the way the ball was coming out of his hand. The arm worked nice."

Chantres could see a few mechanical flaws in Quintana's delivery, but he knew they were fixable.

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"He had an idea of his delivery already," Chantres said. "We tweaked some stuff, nothing crazy. He was a smart kid. He learned English quickly. We worked on staying back a little bit, the balance stuff, but overall, the credit is to him."

Asked if there was one coach who had the most influence on him, Quintana picked Chantres, now 41 and in the Braves' organization. The two still stay in touch, texting about once a month to catch up on their families, baseball and life.

Chantres sensed that Quintana was motivated. The pitcher had signed with the Mets in 2006, but he was released in July 2007. The Yankees signed him in March 2008.

"Him getting released opened his eyes a little bit," Chantres said. "'I'm not on a team now -- what do I do?' That second chance with the Yankees, that was huge."

Quintana, 29, is motivated this season as well. He wants another trip to the postseason and more games like his Cubs debut on July 16 against the Orioles, when he struck out 12 over seven scoreless innings.

Video: CHC@BAL: Quintana fans 12 over seven in Cubs debut

"It was amazing," Quintana said. "I felt everything different, and everything was good. It was a great experience for the first time. I did a great job -- that's what I wanted to do that day was to impress the first time. Everything went the way I wanted. I want more games like that."

It will begin April 1 against the Marlins for Quintana, acquired last July from the White Sox for top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. Here's some things you should know about "Q":

• Growing up in Colombia, he admired Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera.

"Edgar Renteria was my hero," Quintana said. "He's my friend. He lives in the same city where I live, close to me. He's a great person. I learned a lot from him."

• Quintana was a first baseman and center fielder, and he didn't start pitching until he was 15 years old.

• Yes, Quintana did watch Jimmy Fallon on television to learn English. There was something about Fallon's accent that made it easy for Quintana to understand. Quintana did appear on "The Tonight Show" in April 2017 to talk about the experience.

"It was pretty special," Quintana said. "He's a famous guy in this country, but most important, he's a great person. That's what I saw when I talked to him."

Video: In My Own Words: Quintana on The Tonight Show

• It was with the Yankees and Chantres that Quintana learned to develop a routine to prepare for his starts. Chantres, whose family is Cuban and who lives in Miami, was with Quintana in the Dominican Republic in 2008 and '09, and again in '10 when the lefty was pitching in the Gulf Coast League.

"He put in the hard work and applied everything we talked about, and the rest is history," Chantres said. "He's a pro. That's the best way to describe him. He knows what to do, he goes about his business well. He knows how to carry himself. Props to him, because he had to go through some adversity, not getting called up, stuff like that, coming from Colombia. Again, it was all him. He deserves all the credit."

• When Quintana threw a sim game last week against some Cubs Minor Leaguers, one of the observers was Adbert Alzolay. The Venezuelan pitcher, ranked No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's list of Top 30 Cubs prospects, tried to watch every one of Quintana's side sessions. Lefty reliever Rob Zastryzny downloaded four of Quintana's games to his iPad to study.

Video: #NoOffseason: Quintana reflects on the Classic

Quintana's delivery is so precise that youngsters want to copy it.

"I grew up with that, and I try to keep doing the same things," Quintana said. "I try to get really good extension, that's most important for pitchers. Every coach said, 'You have a really good delivery.'"

"I've had meetings with some of the young guys, the Hispanic kids, and they reference watching Quintana," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's really made an impression and that's worth its weight in gold. He's a young veteran, 'Q' is, and you get that guy out there who's really good and he's willing to share, that's when you get good. You get young talented guys who are being not raised by wolves, it really matters."

Chantres saw what Quintana could be 10 years ago in the Dominican Republic.

"That's his rhythm, that's his timing," Chantres said. "That was the timing he needed to get to all his key points. Once he got to those key points, he started. I wanted to take him when I was the pitching coach at [Class A] Charleston, I wanted him. They told me he needed to stay [in the lower levels]. Things happen for a reason. He stayed there and got called up to pitch in high A in a spot start. He went back up again because a guy couldn't start, and he stayed there.

"He's a pro. Everything he does, he's a pro," Chantres said. "God bless him, it worked out for him." 

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Jose Quintana