White Sox: Weight of extension probably affected Quintana

White Sox: Weight of extension probably affected Quintana
March 24, 2014, 5:15 pm

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Job security apparently makes a big difference for Jose Quintana.

About nine runs worth.

Quintana’s five-year, $26.5-million deal, one that was announced Monday morning, was finalized in between the left-hander’s Sunday start and his previous outing when he allowed nine runs without recording an out.

On Sunday, with his physical passed and the weight of the deal — one that could max out at $47.5 million over seven years — off his mind, Quintana got back to the form he has shown since his 2012 arrival with one hit allowed over five scoreless innings. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who calls Monday’s announcement a victory for Quintana and the entire organization, took credit for the left-hander’s March 18 disaster against the Oakland A’s, an outing that occurred two days before the left-hander’s physical was scheduled.

“That’s a lot for someone to handle,” Hahn said. “As I’m sitting there watching him get hit around and not be his normal self, I’m thinking ‘This one’s on me. I should send refunds to whoever attended that game.’”

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One of the reasons the White Sox wanted to get Quintana under contract — aside from the freed up resources this deal provides through at least 2018 — has been his ability to make any adjustments the club has asked.

Quintana, who signed as a minor-league free agent in 2012, began by adding a cut fastball to his repertoire, something White Sox observers believed he was capable of when they scouted him in the Yankees’ minor-league system.

Then ahead of the 2013 season, pitching coach Don Cooper asked Quintana to work on command to the outside portion of the plate. Pitching inside hasn’t been an issue for Quintana, but hitters stayed away from outside pitches in 2012 knowing he had trouble throwing strikes. With better command to the outside, Quintana has reduced his walk-rate and improved his strikeout-rate. He also showed he can be a durable starter capable of 200 innings.

“When he came up, he did a lot of things as a young guy jumping up from Double-A that most guys making that jump don’t do,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s pitched some tough games. He’s been given a lot of responsibility for his age and where he has come from. So, you know, I’m happy. He’s a tough kid and I like giving the ball to him just because you know what you are going to get.”

In most cases, anyway.

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But on March 18, with his extension on his mind, Quintana admits he wasn’t his normal self and it led to an abnormal day after he allowed nine earned runs on seven hits with two walks.

His arm slot was off and Quintana pitched more over the top than he normally does. He and Cooper fixed the problem in a bullpen session that also took place after his physical and all was right yet again.

“It’s hard for me, my first time talking about contract,” said Quintana, who wanted security for his family and to continue his career with the White Sox.

“My mind went a little bit. But now I focus on my game and really happy with that.”

Hahn is too.

He knew other forces were at work when Quintana took the mound against the A’s. He also suspected Quintana would get back on track with the deal complete.

“I suppose figuratively there was a pot of gold at the end of that other start that he just had to get through,” Hahn said. “That’s not shocking that it didn’t go quite according to plan. It was nice to see him very easily put that behind him and have a good outing yesterday and go back to being the Jose Quintana we’ve seen over the last couple of years.”