Let’s make something clear. I am a Hector Sanchez fan – a big Hector Sanchez fan. I always have been.
So it pains me to say this. But it need be said. In his four starts this season, Sanchez has not looked good behind the plate. His all-around subpar defense has been obvious. And it is likely the reason Guillermo Quiroz got the starting nod for Wednesday’s day game, to spell Buster Posey after a night game.
And in his first start behind the plate with the Giants, Quiroz was nothing short of stellar. He showed the exemplary defensive skills that have become synonymous with Giants catchers in recent years. At this point of the Giants’ burgeoning baseball dynasty, such excellence is downright expected.
Well, Quiroz delivered in his starting debut. Despite starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner taking a no-decision in an extra-inning loss to the Diamondbacks, the battery mates locked up for Bumgarner’s most efficient outing since his first start of the season, when he two-hit the Dodgers over eight shutout innings on April 2.
While the Giants’ decision to keep three catchers on their opening day roster seemed to foreshadow a disappointing sophomore season for Sanchez, the chance that Quiroz would emerge as a diamond in the rough hardly entered into the think tank of the Giants growing fan base. With any more performances like Wednesday’s though, people are quickly going to get curious about the new kid.
But like several Giants catchers in recent memory, Quiroz is not a new kid. He’s a 31-year-old journeyman catcher who has played with seven organizations since signing as an international free agent in 1998 with the Blue Jays. The Giants are his fourth organization in two years. Which begs the question – How do the Giants keep finding these guys?
Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart were both pivotal finds in recent years. Whiteside, of course, played in the Giants organization during both World Series-winning seasons over the past three years, including serving as the backup catcher throughout the postseason during the championship run of 2010. And he and Stewart anchored the team behind the plate in 2011 after Posey was lost for the season due to injury.
The fantastic backstory of Whiteside and Stewart is the tandem combined for nearly two decades of minor-league service time before catching on as big-league mainstays. If Quiroz sticks in San Francisco, his legacy will be cut from the same stone as Whiteside and Stewart.
The most major league exposure Quiroz has seen came in 2008 when he appeared in 56 games with the Orioles. He hit just .187 that season, after which he had appeared in just eight games in parts of three seasons with three different teams prior to this season. He has already appeared in seven games for the Giants in 2013.
Perhaps plucking Quiroz over the offseason from a multitude of minor-league free agents was more of an obvious move than that which netted his predecessors. After all, Quiroz did hit 15 home runs last season for Mariners Triple-A affiliate Tacoma. It’s the first time since 2003 – when he was rated as a bona fide top prospect – that Quiroz notched double-figures in home runs.
Or perhaps it’s just destiny – a Guillermo legacy, if you will – beginning with the signing of Guillermo Mota prior to the 2010 season. Mota helped the Giants to two World Series rings. And, who can forget Mota’s magnanimous larger-than-life smile after receiving the first ring during the esteemed April 2011 pregame ceremony?
Maybe keeping a Guillermo in the mix is the secret to the Giants’ burgeoning dynasty. And early indications are that Guillermo Quiroz may be an integral figure in making a run at three World Championship rings in four years.