Cal Quantrill Has Been a Great Addition to the Rockies

Cal Quantrill yelling in triumph
(Photo by Alysa Rubin/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)

Rockies: Cal Quantrill Has Been a Great Addition

In recent weeks, it has almost become a guarantee that Cal Quantrill will give his Colorado Rockies a strong performance whenever he takes the mound. In seven of his eight starts between April 15 and May 26, he allowed two earned runs or fewer, with the exception being his start in Mexico City (elevation 7,330 feet). The Rockies went 5–2 in those seven games. Quantrill’s record in the seven was 4–0.

The product has been terrific. So has the process. All seven starts were Quality Starts, meaning he lasted six innings or more while giving up three earned runs or fewer.

How the Rockies Acquired Cal Quantrill

An offseason move that went under the radar, especially outside the Mountain Time Zone, saw the Rockies trade Single-A catcher Kody Huff to the Cleveland Guardians for Quantrill. Quantrill had come off an injury-plagued and, consequently, subpar 2023 season for the Guardians after pitching effectively for them in 2022.

But this move had tremendous potential for the Rockies. Here was a pitcher who knew the division, having been drafted and developed by the San Diego Padres. He had pitched effectively enough in the majors to get a spot on the Canadian National Team for the World Baseball Classic. This pitcher is of major-league pedigree, being the son of Paul Quantrill, a pitcher who logged 14 years in the majors and was one of the coaches for Team Canada. Furthermore, Cal pitched at Stanford University, a longtime college baseball power, and played for Mark Marquess, whose 41 years at Stanford produced two national championships and dozens of major leaguers, including Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Mussina.

What Cal Quantrill Brings to the Rockies

Cal Quantrill was the type of pitcher the Rockies needed in their rotation. Left-handed starter Austin Gomber noted that Quantrill brought “stability” at a time when they desperately needed it. He pointed out that they’ve had injuries to starters the past few years, notably German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, and a veteran like Quantrill “knows how to go about his business” and knows how to be successful at the major league level. “I think it’s good for the team and good for the young guys in the clubhouse to be able to have somebody to model themselves after,” Gomber said.

“With Cal, we’re getting a very professional approach,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Great preparer. Does his homework. All the processes that you look for out of any player are in place with Cal. He’s a pro.”

Pitching coach Darryl Scott recalled the first time he talked to Quantrill on the phone. Scott was impressed with Quantrill’s mindset and goals. According to Scott, Quantrill said, “Hey, I don’t really care about the numbers. All I care about is I want to get deep in every game. I want to give us a chance to win. And I want to pitch six, seven, eight innings every outing. That’s my goal. How many innings can I get over the course of the season.”

Scott knew from that conversation that Quantrill had the right mindset to pitch for the Rockies. He added, “That’s what he brings — that competitor mindset. ‘How deep can I get in the game? How far can I go? I just want to give the team a chance to go every night.’”

Off the Field

Quantrill has been a spark to the Rockies, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Reliever Justin Lawrence said of Quantrill, “He brings a unique boost of energy in all aspects of it, not just baseball. The friendships he made instantly when he came over here—he’s very loud, exuberant, and funny. It’s a breath of fresh air of a personality that this clubhouse needed.”

Catcher Jacob Stallings added, “Anytime you have somebody who comes in with a track record of being a good major-league starting pitcher, (there’s) instant credibility. But he brought stability to the rotation, and (he’s) a guy that we knew (we’d) get innings from and knew we were gonna get a competitor out of.”

Opening Performance

Cal Quantrill’s first two starts of the season did not show much promise. Both came on the road, the first against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the second against the Chicago Cubs. Against the Diamondbacks, Quantrill allowed five runs, all earned, on nine hits with a walk, a strikeout, and two homers across five innings. Quantrill only lasted four innings against the Cubs, allowing four runs on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

His season started to turn around in his third start. It was his first home start in a Rockies uniform, and it came against the Diamondbacks. Despite surrendering eight hits, including two solo homers, Quantrill still put up a Quality Start, allowing three runs across six innings while walking none and striking out six. The Diamondbacks won, 3–2, behind the pitching of Merrill Kelly, but Quantrill had nothing to be ashamed of. He built upon that in his next start, which was the one that started the span mentioned earlier.

The Turning Point for Cal Quantrill

The next start came April 15 on the road against the mighty Philadelphia Phillies. Quantrill lasted six innings, allowing one run on four hits while walking two and striking out one. When he left the game, the teams were tied, 1–1. Three of the four hits were singles; the fourth was a double.

“That’s a really good ball team, right? They’re certainly in the conversation this year,” Quantrill said. “That was a good reminder that my stuff is good enough to get anybody out at this level. It wasn’t a perfect game. I only struck out one. But I limited damage. I really forced them to hit the pitches I wanted them to hit. Mixed it up well. I really think that lined me and both our catchers up on how I’m going to go about my business. (When) we have opportunities to strike guys out, we’re going to try for it. But, most importantly, we’re going six (innings). We’ve got to find a way to get 18 outs.

“So yeah, it was a good one. It was a good turning point. And I think for us, it’s important to play well against some of these good teams and remind ourselves that hey, we’re pretty talented too.”

What changed?

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Quantrill had no magic formula when it came to the improvement in his performance. He said with a grin, “I wish that there was a button that I could tell you about that I went and pushed. I really do think in a lot of ways I’m doing the same thing I was doing. Getting a little better results, I’ve made a couple of better-executed pitches in big moments. That can drastically change a line.” Quantrill listed other actions he’s taken, such as using scouting reports, trusting the catchers, staying efficient with his pitches, and getting ahead in the count.

Scott observed that Quantrill settled into the groove once he got a feel for Denver and understood the adjustments he needed to make to be successful in that pitching environment. “He’s a true competitor,” Scott said. “That’s what I like. (Cal is) gonna do whatever needs to be done, whether it’s in-game (or) in the ‘pen. He’s constantly working to make the adjustments that need to be made in-game. To me, it’s just him getting a better feel for that, between Denver and moving in and out of Denver.”

Teammate Observations

Stallings also noticed that Quantrill had figured out how his pitches behave in Denver, noting that he seemed to do it faster than most. Additionally, he noted that Quantrill had been throwing his split-finger fastball more. “It’s a pitch that he just started throwing again at the end of last year, and it’s been a really good pitch for him. He’s obviously thrown it a lot this year. It’s hard to sit on as a hitter because it does something different every time, (making) it hard to hit.

Lawrence said Quantrill has been “attacking the zone,” adding that it’s “just what you want” out of a pitcher. “It’s attacking the zone with all your pitches and saying, ‘Here it is. I dare you to hit it. I don’t care how good of a hitter you are; I don’t care what my stuff looks like; I don’t know what kind of streak you’re on.’ Any of that stuff all seems to go out the window.”

“He’s done what I’ve expected to see from him,” Gomber added. “(He’s) a veteran that’s been around the league a few times and has had success in the past. So he’s pitching to the ability that everybody in here knows he’s capable of. Commanding the fastball. He has a good splitter. Knows how to navigate himself through a lineup.”

Quotes about Cal Quantrill, the Teammate

“He’s incredible. For me, he’s a guy that slotted in right away as a favorite teammate. As far as immediate impacts, a guy like (Mike) Moustakas last year was a guy that slotted up there as one of my favorite teammates because of the immediate impact. When guys come in and make that immediate impact as a friend and as a teammate, it really helps this clubhouse.” — Justin Lawrence

“He’s a great teammate. His dad played in the big leagues for a long time, so he grew up around the game. He understands what it’s like to be in a clubhouse and the dynamic around that, so he’s been awesome to have in the clubhouse. (He’s) good with the younger guys. Just a good guy to have around.” — Austin Gomber

“He and I have actually (grown) pretty close over the course of a short year. We sit on the bench and talk baseball a lot. He’s also a goofy guy. It’s been fun. He and I are both hockey fans, so we bonded over that initially. Our lockers were right next to each other in spring training, so (it’s) a seamless friendship that has come. It’s been fun.” — Jacob Stallings

(Author’s Note: Quantrill was born and raised in Port Hope, Ontario, which is an hour east of downtown Toronto by car. Not surprisingly, he is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Stallings is a fan of the Nashville Predators. Both teams lost in the first round of this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, so in the words of Stallings, they “sulked over that together.”)

Looking Ahead

Don’t expect Cal Quantrill to be chasing stats, such as strikeouts. All he wants to do is give his team the best chance possible to win. Consequently, he focuses more than anything on getting his opponents out any way he can. “He doesn’t care how he gets them out,” Scott said. “It’s like, ‘Hey. I’m gonna get you out one way or the other. A strikeout’s great. But, hey, if I can get you to roll over something, if I can get you off-balance, if I can jam you, if I can get you off the end’—he doesn’t care.”

Black added, “For me, as an ex-pitcher, it’s fun to watch him, because he really pitches. He has great in-game awareness, which is something that is overlooked a lot. (Cal) makes in-game adjustments very well between innings.”

Scott also noted how much fun Quantrill has pitching. “When you watch his (bullpen sessions), they’re thrown with intensity. They’re thrown with energy. And he has fun. He truly enjoys the art of pitching and the chess game of working hitters.”

Black, as he is apt to do, summed up Quantrill with an analogy. “You know how quarterbacks come off the sidelines during football? They put the headsets on and talk to coaches about whatever, and they look at stuff. That’s what Cal does.”

And Quantrill’s reason is simple: “I’m always trying to get better.”

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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