Nowadays, if starting pitchers take the mound on short rest, it's usually in the postseason.
Then again, the games for the York Revolution last week could have easily been considered playoff games. After all, the first-half Freedom Division crown and a berth in the Atlantic League playoffs were on the line.
So it was OK when, down to four starting pitchers, Revs' manager Mark Mason opted to toss all four of them on three days rest twice last week. It also wouldn't have surprised anyone if some of those pitchers struggled on short rest. Which is why left-hander Alain Quijano defied all expectations. In his two starts, both on three days rest, Quijano went a combined 16 innings, holding opponents to one earned run. His eight scoreless innings at Lancaster on Saturday led the Revs to a 2-0 victory and clinched the first-half division title.
For Quijano, it was a flashback to last season, when he was part of a four-man rotation with Gary Southshore (Ind.) Railcats in the independent American Association.
"It's something we did all year last year. We were on a four-man rotation where I was at. It's not anything I haven't done before," Quijano, 31, said last week.
Some who know him might look at that comment as a typical response from Quijano. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has always taken an easy-going approach to baseball.
"I guess it comes from failing so much," Quijano said of his attitude. "If you fail so much, that if you get mad about it, how are you gonna come back and succeed?"
Tough breaks: A litany of tough breaks have molded Quijano's roll-with-the-punches personality. According to Quijano, he was an all-state high school pitcher set to play for NCAA Division I Iowa State when Iowa State lost its baseball program late in his senior year of high school. So he went to a junior college instead and performed well enough there that NCAA Division I Missouri offered him a substantial athletic scholarship in 2002.
"Things didn't work out there," Quijano said of Missouri. "They really didn't give me the opportunity I thought I was gonna get."
The Iowa native finished out his college career at Grand View (Iowa) University, a NAIA program somewhat similar to Penn State York. Quijano played a season of pro ball in the independent Central (Texas) League in 2005. He couldn't find a job in 2006 and went back to school to get his master's degree in education administration. He's been playing pro ball since 2007, working his way up through the independent ranks before coming to York this season.
"It's like this, I got immigrant grandparents from Mexico and Italy. And the thing that they told us is 'you gotta work hard,'" Quijano said.
His ability to take the bumps in stride over his career has helped offset the fact he has yet to receive an affiliated minor league contract. He understands that scouts might not like him because he doesn't throw a 90 mph fastball, instead sitting in the mid-80s and using a mix of off-speed pitches. He thought about retiring after helping Gary Southshore win the American Association title last season until Revs' skipper Mark Mason acquired him.
"I'll go ahead and lay it out there. This is it. I've done everything that I could do to give myself a chance," he said. "That's all you can ask from yourself. So when I go home and I walk away from this I can say I did what I wanted to do. That's it. I can't control anything. They (scouts) might like me. They might not. To me I can't control that stuff."
Through 15 starts this season, the veteran lefty is 7-4 with a 3.48 ERA, having struck out 57 and walked 21 over 90.1 innings. Quijano's performance last week earned him Atlantic League Player of the Week honors.
If the call from a big league team never comes this season, Quijano said he will retire at the end of the year to pursue a coaching career. Since 2008, he's spent his offseasons serving as the pitching coaching at various programs (Grandview, Iowa Wesleyan and Moraine Valley Community in Illinois). He recently had a job interview for the head coaching gig at Prairie State College, a community college in Chicago.
"It's time," he said. "It's time for life to move on."
— Reach John Walk at email@example.com.