There haven’t been a ton of positive developments for the White Sox in 2013, but Jose Quintana continues to be one of them.
Not that you’d know it by his record.
The second-year starting pitcher was nearly unhittable over seven scoreless innings on Thursday afternoon and struck out a career-high 11 only to earn his seventh straight no decision.
The White Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2, on Adam Dunn’s walk-off home run in the ninth, but it didn’t benefit Quintana, winless since May 21.
While he hasn’t won, Quintana has cemented his status as a fixture in the White Sox rotation. He has done so by learning to throw to both sides of the plate.
“You’re not an unknown anymore,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They know what (Quintana) likes to do and what he tries to do, and you just have to be better at it the older and longer you’re in the game. That’s a good team over there, and to be able to go through with a two-hitter is very impressive.”
Even though Quintana had a strong rookie campaign in 2012 (he went 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA), pitching coach Don Cooper said 2013 would determine whether or not the White Sox had themselves a legitimate starter.
Quintana had a great first half last season after he made the jump to the majors from Single-A, but he needed to further develop if he wanted to stick, Cooper said.
Cooper sent the youngster home to Colombia last offseason with a number of items to work on in hopes he’d complete half. When Quintana reported to Glendale, Ariz., in February, Cooper said the left-hander had completed the entire checklist.
The goal has been for Quintana to be able to throw to all four quadrants, something he couldn’t do last season. As his arm tired, Quintana couldn’t command the outside corner to right-handed hitters. They, in part, wouldn’t offer at those pitches and drove up Quintana’s pitch count and walk rate.
He hasn’t perfected it this season, but catcher Tyler Flowers has seen Quintana improve throwing away to righties.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a strong suit yet, but it’s getting closer to his strength of inside to righties,” Flowers said. “That’s huge, especially being a left-handed guy that notoriously throws fastballs in and cutters in and then all of a sudden you can spot away. It makes the plate feel really big to the hitters.”
On Thursday, Quintana put together his best effort since April 12, when he got a no-decision after seven innings of one-hit ball against the Cleveland Indians.
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Against the second-best offense in the American League, Quintana put two Orioles batters on in the first inning, escaped trouble and didn’t look back.
Following a Chris Davis line-drive double play to end the first, Quintana allowed one batter to reach over his last six innings.
Working with excellent fastball command, Quintana retired 13 straight to end the game and only allowed two hits and one walk.
Ten of Quintana’s 11 strikeouts came after the second inning. Of those, eight were against right-handed hitters.
“Last year I worked a lot inside, and they asked me to go outside with some of the right-handed hitters,” Quintana said through a translator. “This year I feel I have a little more control. I can manage my control a little better and that has led to success.”
Yet it hasn’t led to individual success -- not yet.
Like so many great outings he has experienced thus far, Quintana was shorted the victory.
Quintana left with a 2-0 lead but saw it evaporate in the next inning.
It was the fifth time in 39 career starts that Quintana has pitched at least seven scoreless innings and received a no-decision.
If Quintana is frustrated, he hasn’t shown it yet.
“Those are things you can’t control,” Quintana said. “The most important thing to me is that the team wins. The best thing I can do is to give the team a quality start, give the team the opportunity to win and give them a quality outing.”