DENVER -- New Rockies right-hander Cal Quantrill believes the formula for exceeding low expectations is to ignore them. It has worked for him before.
The 28-year-old, acquired from the Guardians on Friday for Minor League catcher Kody Huff, helped lead a young Cleveland club to the postseason in 2022. The Rockies are coming off the worst finish in their history (59-103 in 2023), but Quantrill sees similarities to his old club at its best.
“I played in the NL West [with the Padres] my first two years in the big leagues, and I know that there are some exciting young players with the Rockies,” Quantrill said. “I consider Nolan Jones [a standout rookie in ‘23, who came from the Guardians in a trade last year] a close friend, and I was excited to see what he did last year. And when I was checking on him I noticed that there is a shortstop [Ezequiel Tovar] and a center felder [Gold Glove winner Brenton Doyle] that know how to catch baseballs, and I am excited to have them playing behind me.
“We did do that in Cleveland, right? We beat every projection. We did it by not caring what other people had to say. We knew what we were capable of, and went out and did it. There are a lot of similarities with this Rockies team.”
A rebound from Quantrill could quicken the Rockies’ path to meaningful late-season games.
Quantrill demonstrated front-line stuff in 2022 (15-5, a 3.38 ERA in 186 1/3 innings over 32 starts) before he dealt with shoulder issues in ‘23 (4-7, a 5.24 ERA in 99 2/3 innings over 19 starts around two IL stints).
However, Quantrill finished strong -- 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA in six September starts. After the Guardians designated him for assignment on Tuesday in a surprising move, the Rockies identified Quantrill as having the quality and toughness needed for a rotation that calls Coors Field home.
“For the most part, he throws strikes, and there’s a mental toughness about him -- he’s going to compete,” Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt said of Quantrill. “He’s shown he can take the ball every five days. He had some injuries this year, but you look back to 2021 and '22 [336 combined innings].
“We’re trying to get better depth. We’re trying to get better quality. He can add to it for us.”
Drafted by the Padres eighth overall out of Stanford in 2016, Quantrill was traded to the Guardians in August 2020. He admitted trying to pitch through shoulder issues last season, and took that as a learning experience.
Last year, Quantrill -- whose father Paul pitched in the Majors for 14 seasons -- added a split-finger pitch to an already diverse pitch mix. He saw it beginning to come together as last season ended. He brings a 42 percent career ground-ball rate, and a desire to pitch deep in games. The Rockies' postseason trips in 2017 and 2018 were built on starting pitchers who paid particular attention to staying in games longer at Coors Field.
“I got a chance to talk to Bud and some of the rest of the coaching staff,” Quantrill said. “I take pride in going deep in games, and I intend on doing that this year. Denver is a unique challenge, but I don't see it as being a game changer. The game is still the same. Everyone pitches in the same ballpark, and I look forward to it.”
Quantrill, heading into his second year of arbitration, becomes a key figure in a rotation that will be without Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela at the start of the season as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Lefties Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber are the veterans, while righties Peter Lambert and Ryan Feltner are the other most experienced candidates for the 2024 rotation.
To make room for Quantrill on the Major League roster, the Rockies designated right-handed reliever Tommy Doyle for assignment. Doyle, 27, debuted briefly during the 2020 season, but he sustained a right shoulder injury that kept him out of the Majors until '23 (0-1, 6.85 in 15 appearances).
Huff, 22, a second-round Rockies pick out of Stanford in 2022, batted .254 with five home runs and 41 RBIs over two seasons in the Minors. Colorado coaches have lauded Huff's performance as a receiver.