MIAMI — Jose Quintana figures to be the next marquee arm on the trading block if the White Sox continue the rebuilding process they began last December. So what Colombia’s Quintana did in stifling Team USA for six innings Friday — a lengthy outing by World Baseball Classic measure — either enhanced his value or made suitors a little anxious about the toll it might take during the upcoming season.
With USA’s Chris Archer bowing out after four innings, on orders from the Rays, Quintana carried a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a two-out single. Quintana then pushed himself to 63 pitches, two short of the WBC limit, before leaving the mound. To stop any sooner than that, while pitching for his country, was unthinkable to Quintana.
“I’ll be honest, I had a different feeling,” said Quintana, who struck out four and allowed one hit over 5 2/3 innings. “When you win in the season — I’m always a person that pays a lot of attention to his work, and I always try to prepare to give 100 percent every five days for each game — this is different. It is my country. It is Colombia. It is the first time I wear this shirt, especially with this turnout and each pitch was with all of my possible energy.”
That last part is an unusual statement to make in early March, a time when ace-caliber pitchers such as Quintana focus more on tuning up for Opening Day rather than treating starts like Game 7 of the World Series. Archer was more in line with Team USA’s pragmatic approach, and manager Jim Leyland wasn’t going to go against the Rays’ directive. Archer didn’t allow a hit and struck out three over four perfect innings, but was pulled after throwing only 41 pitches. At that pace, Archer could have made it through six.
“Well, he had a situation with his organization,” Leyland said. “We were hoping maybe he could have gone a little bit longer. I guess he could have, but once he got to four innings in, that was going to be it. I got a lot of responsibility here.”
And in these situations, at least with Team USA, there’s no switching things up on the fly. Archer said afterward that it was “tough” to come out, but he didn’t question the move.
“We knew coming into this four or five months ago when I committed what it was going to be, and we stuck to the plan,” Archer said. “I tip my hat to Quintana for going out there and taking the ball for his country, because I’m sure he only threw three innings in his last spring training start. It’s early so for him to go out there and do that and do what he did is extremely impressive.”
Saturday night’s showdown brought out mixed emotions from the Royals’ Danny Duffy, whose former teammate, Yordano Ventura, died in a car accident over the winter. As proud as Duffy was to be wearing USA across his chest — he’ll start Sunday — the sight of Ventura’s jersey in the Dominican Republic’s dugout was going to be rough.
“It still hasn’t become real to us,” Duffy said of the Royals. “Truthfully, man, I mean I dream about the kid all the time. It’s definitely a tough period, but none of us in that clubhouse, in the Royals clubhouse, has ever been through something like that before. I loved that kid. He was my little brother. We came up together, and obviously he had that kind of fire that you can’t teach.”
“I’m rocking No. 30 on the back of my cleats. I’m doing everything I can to honor him and just play like him. So, seeing that jersey is obviously going to be difficult. We get out to Opening Day it’s going to be interesting. To really see how we’re all going to approach it, because everybody grieves in different ways.”