When the 23-year-old Quintana made his major-league debut after being called up from Double-A in May, that question was irrelevant. He was called up for one game, did his job -- he allowed one hit and no runs in 5 2/3 innings of relief against the Detroit Tigers on May 7 -- and was sent back down that same day.
But ever since Quintana returned to the majors on May 25, replacing the injured John Danks in the starting rotation, the curiosity of how good Quintana actually is has only built. And as he’s proven himself with each outing, the question has grown more complex.
It’s gone from “Is he any good?” to “Should the White Sox find a spot for him in the bullpen?” to “Who does he replace in the starting rotation? to “Is he one of the White Sox’s top pitchers” to now “Just how good is he really?”
On Thursday, Quintana tried to answer that last question again. He out-pitched Rangers ace Matt Harrison in a 2-1 victory over Texas, completing a sweep at U.S. Cellular Field. Quintana allowed two hits, one run, one walk and had a career-high eight strikeouts in eight innings.
Quintana has yet to accumulate enough innings to factor in the league leaders, but his numbers can’t be ignored any longer.
He’s 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 10 games, including eight starts. He’s gone eight innings in three of those starts.
He’s allowed more than two earned runs in just one of his eight starts. Six of his 13 earned runs this season came in one start.
He allowed no runs against the St. Louis Cardinals, two runs against the Toronto Blue Jays, one run against the Rangers, no runs against the Milwaukee Brewers and two runs against the Cleveland Indians. All five teams rank in the top 10 in RBIs.
He has walked a total of 10 hitters in 57 1/3 innings and had two starts where he has allowed more than one walk.
Projecting the numbers out, it’s hard not to think of what could have been if Quintana had been around all season. The White Sox may have been talking about three potential All-Star pitchers, not just two in Chris Sale and Jake Peavy.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura thought highly of Quintana when he first came up, and that confidence has only grown with time. Ventura understands the White Sox may just not be a first-place team without Quintana.
“He’s pitched against strong teams,” Ventura said. “It’s one of those he has a great feeling on the mound. He has great stuff. He’s more mature than you would think. We’re lucky we’re in the situation we’re in with Johnny (Danks) going down to pick it up and pitch the way he has.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington also walked away Thursday impressed by Quintana. The only run the Rangers got off Quintana came when a liner ricocheted off Quintana’s thigh and into the outfield, allowing a run to score from second base.
“(I was impressed by) the way he changed speeds, the way he uses his off-speed stuff, secondary stuff, moved his fastball around, showed some poise out there on the mound and kept us off balance,” Washington said.
While Quintana has continued to turn heads and gain respect throughout baseball with each start, he took a humble approach on Thursday.
“(The Rangers are) definitely one of the best lineups in baseball, but I just go out there and do the same thing each time -- try to give my best and also try to throw my best pitches for strikes,” Quintana said. “That’s pretty much what I tried to today.
“I’m really happy about how everything is going so far, but I’m even more excited about the team and winning and how we’re all playing together. So right now, I’m just looking forward to the second half and hopefully continue what we have going on right now.”