2019 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Luis Quinones takes his turn in the C’s Plus Baseball rotation for the latest edition of C’s Chat .
Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the right-handed Quinones was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 from San Jacinto College in Houston, the same place from which the Washington Nationals selected right-hander Jackson Rutledge 17th overall. The Blue Jays may have struck gold after Quinones was taken 33 rounds later from the Gators on the recommendation of scout Chris Curtis.
““My name…(hadn’t) been called yet and I was like so nervous but then my (advisor) called me. He was like, ‘Hey! The Blue Jays are going to take you right now.’ That was the best news of my life. It was something unbelievable. I got drafted on June 5th. I was only with my Mom. Whenever I got that call, that was something crazy. I couldn’t even believe it. The dream of my life came through.”
A number of other teams were interested but it was the Blue Jays who came calling.
“I had like seven other teams but they never called but thank God I’m with the Blue Jays right now.”
Quinones’ 2018 San Jacinto teammate and 2019 C’s pitcher Mike Pascoe was one of the first to welcome him to the Blue Jays nest.
“He texted me as soon as he knew. He texted me. He told me it was a good organization and he wished me luck and here we are, playing together now again.”
Transferring from Wabash Valley Community College in Mount Carmel, Illinois, Quinones spent the 2018 and 2019 campaigns at San Jacinto. He made 10 appearances in his first season with the Gators where he won all four of his decisions with a 1.96 earned run average, striking out 23 batters over 18-1/3 innings. His walk rate went up from 4.4 per nine innings to 5.3 in 2019 but that was more than offset with 53 strikeouts over 28-2/3 innings and a nearly 40-point drop in his ERA at 1.57. The two seasons were time well spent for Quinones.
“It was amazing. My pitching coach from San Sac, he played for the Blue Jays too. Woody Williams, he won the (World Series with Toronto in 1993). He was unbelievable. He is one of the best guys that I know. Korey Koehler, Tom Arrington, their staff is amazing.”
Before heading over to the U.S., Quinones attended Abelarto Otero High School in his hometown of Arecibo. He used to play on the left side of the diamond before moving to the mound.
“When I was like 16 I believe. I usually played third base and shortstop. I was good at fielding but I couldn’t hit so that’s when they moved me to pitcher.”
The credit for Quinones’ transition to pitching goes
“Hilberto Ramos. He was one of my best coaches back home. He coached me whenever I was like 16. He was one of the guys who told me a lot about pitching. He told me I was one of the best pitchers he had ever seen. He taught me a lot whenever I was at that age.”
That transition to the mound is something Quinones has enjoyed.
“You control the game. If you don’t throw the ball, there’s no game. You’re like the boss of the game. That’s what I love about pitching.”
Pitching Repertoire & Mechanics
The pitch count for Quinones in terms of what he throws is five.
“”I throw a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup and splitter. I’m a pitcher that likes to throw a lot of fastballs. I like challenging hitters. I think I compete a lot. I never give up. That’s what brought me here because I never gave up. I think that’s one of my best (qualities).”
When it comes to putting away hitters, Quinones likes to use a particular pitch.
“For a strikeout pitcher, I would say it is my splitter but like other than my fastball, I would say the curveball is pretty good and the slider.”
Quinones reached 97 miles per hour in early August during an outing in Tri-City but he says his fastball is usually in the mid-90’s range.
“In the college season, I was like 92, 95 or 92 to 94 probably.”
The velocity on his fastball is not something Quinones should concern himself with, according to advice given by San Jacinto pitching coach Woody Williams.
“You don’t need to throw 100 (miles per hour) to dominate guys. You just got to trust yourself, trust your stuff and work hard.
The work ethic, the hard work that you put in is going to dominate talent eventually so you just got to work hard and dominate the hitters.”
One area Quinones is paying attention to is his delivery.
“The thing I pay most attention to is mechanical stuff. Stay in the back more, separate the hands at the same time. I pay a lot of attention to that.”
Starting vs. Relieving
His time in San Jacinto saw Quinones make 18 of his 25 appearances out of the bullpen and his time with Bluefield and Vancouver saw him pitching in relief eight times out of 12. However, he would rather throw the first pitch of the game for his team.
“I’d rather start but I mean I would do whatever the team needs me to do. If starting is going to help me moving up or relieving, I would do whatever. Whatever it takes to keep moving up.”
No matter when he pitches, Quinones feels he has a good handle on how to get ready when he heads to the mound.
“I would say it’s kind of the same because whenever I would relieve, I already know I’m throwing that day. If I know the starter is going like three innings, probably in the first inning, I’m already stretching and everything, doing all my routine so I can be ready. I’d rather start but (the preparation is) pretty similar.”
The first game of Quinones’ pro career was June 21 for the Bluefield Blue Jays was in Pulaski. That moment was extraordinaries special for him as he faced the affiliate of the major league organization he rooted for as a youngster, the New York Yankees.
“Growing up, the Yankees was my favourite team. Whenever I was a little kid, my grandpa – that was his favourite team too but now my favourite team is the Blue Jays.”
The Appalachian League experience consisted of just two appearances for Quinones. After striking out five over 3-1/3 innings in Pulaski, he struck out five more over three shutout frames June 28 against Burlington to collect his first professional save.
“I only got to pitch there once because my first outing as a professional, I threw against the Yankees at their place (Pulaski) and then I threw at Bluefield and after that, I got called up over here so I only threw at Bluefield once. It’s pretty nice. Not a lot of people like here (in Vancouver) but it was pretty nice. I liked it.”
The call to go to Vancouver for Quinones came on July 2nd and he realized he was in a big-time atmosphere right away.
“When I came out here, it was so different. The fans, the way you play, everything is so different. I love it here. It’s a great city.”
Unfortunately, Quinones took the loss in his C’s debut against Hillsboro July 3 due to a dropped foul ball that extended an inning and led to a two-run home run. Three of his next four outings were scoreless in July and he ended the month with a 1.23 ERA.
The positive momentum continued for Quinones at the beginning of August with two more scoreless outings, including his first professional win in Eugene August 13. After plunking the first batter he faced, Quinones retired 12 men in a row, eight via the strikeout, over four shutout frames. That stretch also included six strikeouts in a row.
“That was one of my best outings that I ever had. Everything was working. All my pitches were working for strikes. Whenever I wanted to throw them for strikes, in the dirt, whatever, everything was working. I felt amazing that day. It was good.”
That outing against the Emeralds dropped Quinones’ ERA to 0.86 but he may have been running out of gas at the end. He gave up a run in his two next appearances before he was scorched for six runs by in Everett in his last outing of the season in September. His overall ERA for the C’s was still a very respectable 2.97.
As the season wound down, Quinones talked about the importance of staying in shape.
“Taking care of your body is so important. Since we play like every single day here, taking care of your body is like the main thing here so you can stay healthy and so you can play more games. I would say that’s the first thing I learned.”
The 2020 season will see Quinones get a late start but it is expected he will be in a Lansing Lugnuts uniform as he was assigned to their roster October 9. Once he is back in action, he is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his favourite major league pitcher.
“Justin Verlander, he’s unbelievable. He’s a great guy. He’s one of the best right now. I follow him a lot. I like how he throws. He uses his fastball a lot too and then he throws the breaking ball for a strike. I think I could be similar to him one day maybe if I get to the show.”
Thanks a million to Luis Quinones for this edition of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for his help in making it happen.