The Northwest League All-Star break gave the Tri-City Dust Devils a few days to recharge their batteries and hopefully turn around a once-promising summer after starting the second half of the season 1-5.
With the break came a little help in the way of San Diego Padres first-round draft pick Cal Quantrill, who was taken eighth overall in June’s Major League Baseball Draft.
The Dust Devils have Quantrill penciled in to start Thursday when they host the Boise Hawks.
“We — maybe it’s more like me — have been patiently awaiting his arrival,” Dust Devils manager Ben Fritz said with a twinkle in his eye. “You get a guy drafted where he was, and you expect good things. He will come in and pitch to the best of his ability.”
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Quantrill, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-handed pitcher out of Stanford, said he is excited to get on the mound Thursday after 16 months of rehab after having Tommy John surgery in March 2015.
He pitched 13 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts against two walks for the Padres’ Arizona Rookie League affiliate before getting moved to the Tri-Cities.
“I think the Arizona League was good training,” Quantrill said. “I’m excited to be on a team, and on a team that is trying to win. I’m going to enjoy this last month of the season with Tri-City. I’m going to put the past behind me. I’m ready for something new.”
In his freshman season at Stanford, Quantrill made 17 starts, including opening day. He was the first freshman to start opening day for the Cardinal since Mike Mussina in 1988.
Quantrill, 21, said he started having issues in February of his sophomore year and tried to play through it, but eventually had to have surgery. He missed the entire 2016 season.
“I don’t recommend it,” Quantrill said of the Tommy John procedure. “The first couple of months you are bedridden. These last two months have been great. There hasn’t been any soreness.”
He said his velocity is close to where it was before he had surgery, and his four pitches — fastball, change-up, slider and curveball — are ready to go.
“I’ll see what I am capable of doing,” Quantrill said.
With Quantrill on board, the Dust Devils have three of San Diego’s top 50 draft picks of 2016 on their roster — pitcher Eric Lauer (first round, 25th overall) and outfielder Buddy Reed (second round, 48th) being the other two.
“I don’t look at them differently,” Fritz said of the high draft picks. “As far as me with them, they are all out here playing the same game. Sometimes my job is to stay out of the way.”
Quantrill grew up in Port Hope, Ontario, and is the second-highest drafted Canadian player behind Adam Loewen, who was taken fourth overall in 2002 by the Baltimore Orioles.
Hockey typically is the sport of choice for most Canadians, but not in the Quantrill family.
Quantrill is the son of former major league pitcher Paul Quantrill, who played 14 years for the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins. He last played in the majors in 2005. He holds the Yankees’ record for most games pitched in a season with 86. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Canada has a bunch of baseball players, but it isn’t our main sport,” Quantrill admitted. “I was pretty good at hockey when I was younger, but baseball took over the last part of high school. I think it had something to do with my dad. That, and I got too tall and skinny to play hockey. I think I’m better at baseball.”
Quantrill was a four-time varsity letterman in baseball at Trinity College School in Port Hope, and also lettered in hockey and volleyball.
“I was born into it,” Quantrill said of baseball. “I’m ready to do my own thing.”