White Sox

Jose Quintana has a plan to combat excitement surrounding postseason debut

Jose Quintana has a plan to combat excitement surrounding postseason debut

One of baseball’s best kept secrets is about to step into the October spotlight for the very first time and everyone wonders how he’ll handle the moment.

Even though Jose Quintana has never pitched in the postseason, he said the key to his debut on Monday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series will be to keep things simple.

Prior to Sunday afternoon’s brunch-out at Wrigley Field, Quintana said he spent the previous two games soaking up the playoff atmosphere and taking notes from veteran teammates. The Cubs’ key midseason acquisition expects to be excitable when he faces Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals in front of a sellout crowd at Wrigley Field with the series tied 1-1. But Quintana also believes that all that matters is if hit his spots and stays out of the middle of the zone.

“I feel really good,” Quintana said. “I’m so excited. I try to be like, you know, cool, but be present and focus on my game.

“Like I say, I don’t want to change nothing. Just throw my ball well and just focus, pitch by pitch. At this time, a short series, it’s really important, every pitch.”

Quintana’s only other opportunity to reach the postseason in five seasons was with the 2012 White Sox, whose position players were beat up and its rotation simply ran out of gas in September. Even though this type of start is exactly why the Cubs made a blockbuster to acquire him, shipping elite hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez and hard-throwing righty Dylan Cease to the White Sox in July, it’s only natural to wonder how Quintana will fare. The 2017 postseason has been largely unkind to first-time starting pitchers so far as Arizona’s Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker, Boston’s Chris Sale and Colorado’s Jon Gray were all hit hard in their October debuts.

But the left-hander has come close to replicating a similar atmosphere when he pitched for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic against Team USA on March 11, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced.  

Beyond that, Quintana pitched extremely well down the stretch for the Cubs during their drive to the NL Central title. Manager Joe Maddon cited Quintana’s brilliant Sept. 24 turn at Milwaukee when he struck out 10 during a three-hit shutout as evidence he’s ready. Quintana went 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 45 strikeouts with only four walks in 38 1/3 innings over his final six starts.

“I don’t want to keep going back in time, but that four-game series up there was really pertinent,” Maddon said. “He had a great look. I can only tell you --- we’re all into reading people’s faces and their vibe and their energy and all that stuff. And he had it. He has it. My only concern is that he’s over-amped a little bit too much, too soon tomorrow afternoon. But he’s wanted to be this guy.”

Similar to Sale, Quintana has always desired this moment. Reaching the postseason has been his goal every season from the first time he plays catch in spring training to his first bullpen to the first start. Quintana’s laser focus in between starts always made him an easy example for White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper to use as a model for his other pitchers to follow. It also contributed to the pinpoint command that has allowed him to excel as a big leaguer.

[MORE: 6 main NLDS takeaways heading into Cubs-Nationals Game 3

His former catch partner with the White Sox, pitcher Carlos Rodon, said that even during a simple warmup drill, Quintana always tried to hit an invisible circle between his legs at knee-high level.

That “focused practice,” as Cooper calls it, has always helped Quintana stay dialed in during trying moments. It’ll likely be critical once again when Quintana takes the hill on Monday against a team he’s never faced before.

“The approach never changes,” Quintana said. “I saw that with (Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester) and watching around the field in Washington was great. It’s exciting.

“John Lackey told me the last couple days, try to do your job. Just hit your spots and never change. The game’s the same and you’re going to feel the energy around you, so it’s really exciting. I’ve never seen games like this, and it’s really fun.” 

Why Carson Fulmer's fifth-inning escape could be a building block

Why Carson Fulmer's fifth-inning escape could be a building block

CLEVELAND -- With every pause in the fifth inning, and there were quite a few, the Progressive Field crowd booed Carson Fulmer and the White Sox a little louder.

There was the delay after Fulmer balked the go-ahead run to second base and sought an explanation for the call. A few seconds after that, manager Rick Renteria made a trip to the mound in search of clarification. Beyond that, Fulmer, in an attempt to slow things down, stepped off the rubber several times.

Each time, the sellout crowd got louder.

Yet Fulmer maintained his composure throughout it all. In yet another plus for the team’s future, Fulmer pitched out of a tricky situation to silence the gathering of 33,173. The White Sox rewarded their rookie for the effort with a run in the top of the sixth inning and the bullpen did the rest in a 2-1 victory over the Indians. Fulmer’s third win in four decisions meant the White Sox finished September with a 15-14 record.

“He showed a lot of poise and character throughout that whole situation,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Things like that happen. There’s going to be disagreements. But it’s how you deal with it and I thought he did a nice job continuing to get back out there.”

Everything was in place for Cleveland in the fifth inning. The atmosphere tensed up when Michael Brantley stepped into the on-deck circle as a pinch-hitter after Fulmer hit Yan Gomes with one out and the White Sox ahead by a run. Brantley, who was activated off the disabled list earlier Saturday, followed with a single on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, putting runners on the corners. Francisco Lindor tied it with an RBI fielder’s choice.

With Jason Kipnis at bat, then came a “left knee buckle” from Fulmer, according to plate umpire Pat Hoberg. Instead of picking Lindor off first to end the inning, the runner advanced 90 feet into scoring position. But Fulmer didn’t let the situation get out of control. He stepped off the mound, twice, before Kipnis flew out to center.

“We wanted to make sure I was clear to make the right pitch,” Fulmer said. “There were a couple of things that happened that I just wanted to take a deep breath. With a veteran guy like that, you have to respect his time in the box. But like I said, the game couldn’t go in your favor if you didn’t make the right pitch. I tried to control the situation as much as I could. I was able to get the fastball in after him barreling some balls up foul. I was lucky enough to make the right pitch and get out of the inning.”

Blister issues aside, Fulmer’s had several confidence-building moments in September. He returned to the majors after getting shelled in his Aug. 21 start and pitched well.

Upon returning, Fulmer started in the bullpen and then moved into the rotation. Overall, he posted a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings, allowing four earned runs, 12 hits, 10 walks and struck out 19. Fulmer also went toe-to-toe with Corey Kluber on Saturday, a master of handling the moment. That wasn’t lost on Fulmer, who hopes his fifth-inning escape is something to build off of.

“It's these experiences,” Fulmer said. “If I want to get to where I want to be, and the guys want to get on this team to where they want to be, we have to be put in situations like that.”

“Definitely having success is great but he threw a heck of a game. You've got to give respect to him but take this experience and continue to move forward.”

Midseason turnaround has allowed Tim Anderson to get 'back to myself'

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USA TODAY

Midseason turnaround has allowed Tim Anderson to get 'back to myself'

CLEVELAND -- What was supposed to be a restful day for Tim Anderson included five minutes tidying up a clubhouse prank.

Out of the lineup for Saturday’s game, Anderson arrived at Progressive Field in the afternoon to find his clubhouse stall enveloped in red masking tape with a sign that said “Off” taped to his chair.

At the end of a long and trying season, Anderson appreciated the humor in a prank perfectly executed by first baseman Jose Abreu. It’s just another enjoyable episode for Anderson, who has rebounded and rediscovered his game over the season’s final two months.

“I feel great,” Anderson said. “I’m feeling good and doing what I’m supposed to do, getting back to myself.

“Kind of have to learn from (this season).

“Definitely going to remember this season for the rest of my life. Something I can carry with me. Kind of proud of the way it ended.”

Anderson went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and an error on a routine play in Friday night’s loss to the Cleveland Indians. It was a rare off night for the second-year player, who has responded with two months of great play to the toughest stretch of his career.

Since Aug. 1, Anderson is hitting .299/.314/.493 with 13 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 27 RBIs in 226 plate appearances. Those numbers are a huge improvement over the first four months of the season, where Anderson struggled after signing a contract extension in March. Part of it could be attributed to a sophomore slump. But the bulk of Anderson’s troubles came from difficulty coping with the death of close friend Branden Moss, who was shot while aiding an assault victim on May 7.

“He had some things go on this year that really tested him,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he’s come out of it pretty well and I think he’ll learn from it. He’s going to gain some more maturity as a man and I think he’ll continue to improve as a player. I think he’s done a nice job over the last four or five weeks and we’ve started to see a Tim Anderson that’s pretty good out there.”

Though he described his season as up and down, Anderson always tries to look for the positives he can take from it. Abreu’s prank for instance, was a light moment to start a day of rest off on the right foot. Anderson snapped a photo of his locker for his Instagram account and began to slowly unwrap everything so he could get dressed.

“Took me a little while to take the tape off,” Anderson said. “It was very funny though.”