In the late 1970s, there was a series of memorable commercials for the stock brokerage firm E.F. Hutton.
The characters would be walking through an airport baggage claim, lounging around the pool at a busy resort or jogging through the park as they discussed their finances. Once “E.F. Hutton says” is muttered, the scene freezes so the onlookers can have a listen.
“He doesn’t go around popping his gums all the time and talking all the time, so when he does say something, you can see guys get kind of drawn to him, and he doesn’t have to show the whole world that he’s talking to somebody,” Showalter said.
“He’s just real sincere. He’s a good human being who’s also a good pitcher.”
Following the trade deadline deals of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Quintana’s 12 years of major league experience have been a windfall for the Mets’ starting rotation. That unit now features Kodai Senga, who has dazzled in his first season coming over from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball but is still acclimating, and David Peterson, Tylor Megill and perhaps Jose Butto, who each have less than three years experience at the MLB level.
“I like to help my team and teammates,” Quintana told NorthJersey.com during the Mets’ last homestand. “If we can help each other, I think that’s the best way.
“Before, in the beginning of my career, I got support from a lot of my teammates, good pitchers, and now I feel like we can help together. I learn from them, they learn from me. It’s great. I like to talk, sometimes I’m a little shy, but I like it.”
Jose Quintana’s rare injury setback
Quintana signed an international deal with the Mets as a teenager out of Colombia in 2006 before breaking through with the Chicago White Sox in 2012.
In eight of his last 10 seasons entering 2023, Quintana had started at least 32 games, including in 2016 when he earned his first All-Star selection as a member of the White Sox. (He made 29 starts in 2019 and four during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.)
That durability intrigued the Mets when they signed him to a two-year, $26 million contract in the offseason. It was jarring in spring training when side tightness revealed a stress reaction in his ribs and uncovered a lesion that required bone graft surgery.
It was a scary time, but the lesion came back benign and Quintana was back in the clubhouse for the Mets nearly two weeks after the surgery. Less than two months later as Quintana began throwing, he appeared in the Citi Field clubhouse and looked no worse for the wear.
“It was a hard time to be out from the team,” he said. “Right now, I’m really enjoying to be back and pitching well and keep doing my thing. Every time out there I get more confidence. I want to show the best I can do. I just want to keep going and get good results. I want to win, so anything I need to do to win, I’m going to be open to do it.”
Finding his form
Now, despite a lack of run support at times, Quintana has displayed the form that made him so coveted by the Mets.
Since making his Mets debut on July 20 against the White Sox, Quintana is 2-5 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 54 innings across nine starts. He has delivered quality starts in seven of his last eight outings.
“Every pitch matters for him,” said Omar Narvaez, who also caught Quintana as a member of the White Sox in 2016 and 2017. “The effort that he puts on the mound is unbelievable. You always a want a pitcher that he gives everything every pitch. He’s on top of his game. He knows how to pitch. He knows what his strength is, and I think that he is one of the best pitchers that we have.”
This season’s late start also meant an extended adjustment period for Quintana, who initially struggled with the introduction with the pitch clock in the spring. Now, he feels the timer works to his advantage to attack the strike zone and work into a rhythm.
“No matter if you throw hard or not, I think this game’s more mental,” Quintana said. “I try to be ahead the most I can, that’s the way my stuff works really good. I just like to compete, go out there and have fun. Most of the time, I’m thinking short, get one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. If you lose your mind for a second, now the game’s faster.”
‘Every pitch matters’
Quintana’s repertoire is understated but has delivered emphatic results.
He leads with a sinker that checks in at an average velocity of 90.5 mph to change batter’s eye level, and plays off it with a 90.2-mph four-seam fastball. Narvaez called Quintana’s fastball “sneaky,” playing closer to 93 mph because of how intensely he throws it.
Batters are hitting just .189 against Quintana’s curveball this season, while he mixes in an 86-mph changeup. The result is a 41.3 percent ground ball rate and a barrel percentage that is in the top 8 percent of the league in his short stint this season.
“I think the key is my consistency with my mechanics,” Quintana said. “Repeat all three pitches at the same angle and everything is going to look the same. I think mechanics, my delivery, the most I can repeat consistently, I get more chances to be in the zone and execute better.”
Showalter lauded Quintana’s ability to hit all four sides of the strike zone, particularly keeping batters off-balance on the inner half.
“He’s not afraid in there,” Showalter said. “He’ll go in there and it’s either going to be a ball or you’re going to have to move your feet. It’s been fun to watch him pitch and see, ‘I don’t have to throw 97 to be effective.’ You watch the hitters, they have to honor that ball in there. He’ll go back away and he’ll elevate.”
The Mets starting rotation looks far different than the one Quintana joined late in the offseason. But now, the lefty is showcasing why he can be a key factor near the top of the team’s rotation.
He’ll be an integral piece when he has a chance to throw for a full season in 2024.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Jose Quintana: NY Mets pitcher talks injury and spot in starting rotation