It seems like wishful thinking now, but Tuesday night's showdown with St. Louis seemed like a chance to finally get some definitive answers on Jose Quintana, one way or another.
That didn't quite happen. Maybe it won't happen anytime soon
He gave up boatloads of hits, but not a lot of truly hard ones, and also generated the grounders to wriggle himself free and create a couple of double plays.
He threw a 90 mph fastball all night, and relied on it for pretty much everything, including getting most of his whiffs (five of seven total). The dead-center camera on the St. Louis broadcast gave a good image of what Quintana's game plan was. He pounded the fastball on the hands of righties; over, and over, and over.
When he drifted toward the middle, the results got depreciated for him. His slider didn't fool anyone--which makes sense, as Quintana himself called it more of a cutter, and used it too to bore inside--but switched the timing up enough to generate some balls pulled foul. He threw one slider that got in on David Freese for a swinging strikeout, he made Furcal look silly out in front of a slow curve, but it wasn't a regular feature, and didn't seem like what he was going for most of the time.
He pitched to contact, which isn't groundbreaking to say because to some degree everyone does, but watching him didn't scream "What a talent!", it was more "Well, that was a competent execution of a simple but astute plan."
Robin's praise for Quintana was effusive overall, but there was a giveaway line from him in Mark Gonzales' article.
""He finds a way to make a pitch and get out of it. He uses his defense. A very mature kid."
If a typical marker of a young pitcher is nibbling and a lack of composure, then 'maturity' is a good word for Quintana's willingness to continue to come into the kitchen of St. Louis right-handers with a 90 mph fastball. It's also a good term for his apparent acceptance of what he can and can't do out there.
Paul Konerko, as he is wont to do, put it in more blunt terms, and his whole quote is really a good read.
"He goes right after people and throws on the inside part of the plate to righties, and there were a couple of guys who were ready for it and hit it. But you know there can be a lot of ground balls to the left side and he's not a comfortable (at-bat).
"His ball is heavy and it's cutting in and so you really have to have, as a hitter, your ducks in a row when a guy is doing that.
"It's tough to lay off. There are a lot of balls he throws inside that are right there on the edge of the strike zone."
Of course, without a lot of flashy stuff to fall back on, Quintana's a guy who can certainly get hurt when his command falters. It did so in the 6th, and Robin acted before it threatened the lead. Even in admiring what he did, one has to wonder if he has the ability to be that fine every night, or what happens when the scouting reports on him become more thorough.
In sum, the idea of turning to Quintana is less outlandish, and the assessment that 'he will' fall apart at any time should be switched to 'he could'. He's got development to do, he needs more toys, and his most impressive outing to date still featured ten hits and an early exit, but he's no slouch.