The World Baseball Classic provided an intense atmosphere that led to many players showing all their emotion, including those of Los Angeles Angels reliever José Quijada, who pitched for Venezuela.
Quijada sparked down the stretch with his eccentric outbursts in big moments or after making a huge pitch. The left-hander carried a 3.98 ERA, 3.85 FIP and a 30.8% strikeout rate last season, earning himself a trusted role in the bullpen.
His success earned him an invitation to join Team Venezuela for the WBC, and his power fastball coupled with his ability to pound the top of the strike zone became an instant weapon. Entering their game against Team USA on March 18, Quijada entered the game at a critical point.
Nursing a 6-5 lead over the United States, Team Venezuela manager Omar Lopez went to Quijada with runners on the corners and two outs. He would punch out Kyle Tucker, ending the inning, but in his second inning of work set the stage for a USA comeback after he was pulled, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
“We’ve seen Q pitch before, and you saw what he did afterward,” Nevin said Sunday, referring to Quijada’s on-field celebration after the strikeout. “Putting him back in the game the next inning was not the best idea.”
Quijada losing his touch following his burst of emotion following the Tucker strikeout is worth noting because in such a huge spot, having to regain his composure to face another round of USA sluggers was a tall order. Nevin cited the lefty’s history in similar spots:
Last year, Nevin said Quijada tended to be less effective in less electric moments – like pitching in front of a small crowd in Oakland.
Although the numbers don’t back it up, Nevin belives Quijada’s process in 2022 was more indicative of his true performance:
“I think he did a better job of it at the end of the season last year,” Nevin said. “Then early this spring a couple games he pitched here, the velocity was up. I like the way he went about his business and he threw well. … I think he’s going to be fine. He’s learning what he needs to do to prepare to get outs when he leaves the bullpen.”
The Angels have more experience with Quijada, and to place blame on Lopez for how he deployed the 27-year-old is a difficult thing to do. A subtle bright side to all of this is how he projects going forward given his early exposure to high-leverage moments prior to the regular season.
Angels assistant pitching coach should have large impact on José Quijada and staff
The Angels made the decision to bring in the former director of pitching at Driveline, Bill Hezel, and instill him as the new assistant pitching coach. The 36-year-old left one of the top baseball development programs to join the Major League ranks and now he’s penned as a key cog in pushing pitchers in L.A. to new heights.
With a number of young, interesting arms on the staff, the Angels have a great combination of knowledge and talent brewing.
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