Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Cal Quantrill developing on the fly

Cal Quantrill #47 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Cal Quantrill #47 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Cal Quantrill
Cal Quantrill #47 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Cal Quantrill blossoming into starter role

The 2021 season has been highly uncharacteristic of the Cleveland Indians to say the least. Injuries have piled up more-so this season than in years past, costing the Tribe extended time of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Roberto Perez, Zach Plesac, Franmil Reyes and even losing Josh Naylor for the remainder of the campaign. Even more uncharacteristic of Cleveland, the deep well of pitching that is the farm system dried up, at least for now.

The injuries to the starting rotation have forced the Tribe to dig into the farm system and start some of their high-minors prospects a year or two early. Eli Morgan, J.C. Mejia and Sam Hentges have all logged starts for Cleveland this season, as well as Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen who began the season in the rotation. Those five arms have struggled mightily, making 44 starts for the Indians in place of the Big Three, but notching just three quality starts in that time while averaging just 4.1 innings per start.

Now, in fairness, every one of those pitchers is 25-years-old or younger, and in Hentges’ case never pitched at the Triple-A level before being called up to the show. The kids will be all right, but it stands as a testament to just how unique Cleveland’s 2016 draft class is from a player development standpoint.

However, the Tribe have one other arm who has been making starts in the absence of the Big Three, and Cal Quantrill has developed into a respectable starting pitcher before our eyes in the month of July.

Quantrill, 26, came to the Indians from San Diego as part of the return package for Mike Clevinger at the 2020 MLB trade deadline. He debuted as a starter with the Padres in 2019, making 18 starts and posting an ERA of 5.16 across 23 appearances and was used largely out of the bullpen in 2020.

Quantrill started 2021 in the Indians’ bullpen, with Logan Allen and Triston McKenzie winning the rotation spots up for grabs out of spring training, but was quickly called into starting duties between injuries piling up and the struggles of the aforementioned Logan Allen.

On the season, Quantrill has a 2-2 record across 29 appearances, 11 of those being starts, with an ERA of 3.66 and a WHIP of 1.31. He made his first start of the season in game two of a doubleheader against the White Sox on May 31st, lasting just 3.2 innings, but allowing just one run as the bullpen held on to a 3-1 victory at Progressive Field.

Quantrill notched six starts from May 31 to June 30, pitching to an 0-1 record with a 7.22 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 21.2 innings pitched. He struck out just 17 of the batters he faced, relying heavily on the defense behind him.

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Quantrill was cornered into one of the most un-enviable asks imaginable in the middle of a major league season, to stretch out from a bullpen hand to a starter. He averaged 61.8 pitches per start while basically undergoing in-season Spring Training to get his pitch count and endurance up.

In five starts during the month of July, however, Quantrill has begun to blossom into a solid rotation piece live on our television screens. Across those five starts, he’s pitched 28.1 innings while recording a 2.88 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, notching three quality starts and lasting at least five innings in each start. So what has changed for Quantrill that he looks like an anchor to this rotation?

It’s probably not a coincidence that his streak started on July 4, the first game back for Tribe catcher Roberto Perez who is regarded as one of the best pitch framers and game callers in the MLB. However, Perez isn’t solely responsible for Quantrill’s success since he still has to execute his game plan and pitches.

Quantrill still doesn’t miss many bats, striking out just 16 batters in July, so he’s still very reliant on the defense behind him despite a 95MPH 4-Seam and Slider combination that should generate more swings-and-misses.

So what comes next for Quantrill? It appears he’s fully stretched out, a feat that is very impressive during the course of the regular season, averaging 90.6 pitches per game in July. Next steps are then twofold; work on command and sequencing to induce more whiffs, and be able to make it through the lineup a third time. Plesac and Quantrill currently overlap in the latter of those two steps, while Plesac is already an efficient strikeout pitcher.

Quantrill is next scheduled to take the bump on Sunday August 1 against the White Sox where he looks to build even further on his strong July. He’s turned into an exceptional bright spot in what is a fairly mediocre season so far, and watching his development from start-to-start is encouraging to say the least. On the current trajectory it appears the Tribe can build a five-man rotation for 2022 that includes Quantrill as an anchor, and that’s something we could all get excited about.

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