Colorado’s Cal Quantrill, Dakota Hudson bring leadership, experience to Rockies pitching staff

Following a season marred by injuries, the Colorado Rockies have bolstered their rotation with acquisitions like Dakota Hudson, left, and Cal Quantrill. (Photos by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/Getty Images and Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE – Reflecting on his team’s 59-103 campaign in 2023, Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black sat in his office, lamenting the catastrophic injuries that derailed his team a year ago.

Injuries within the Colorado pitching staff, including two that required season-ending Tommy John surgeries for veterans German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, left Black scrambling.

The Rockies relied on a variety of tactics just to get through the season. For example, there were 17 different Rockies pitchers, including those slated to start and others who were expected to come out of the bullpen, who started games in 2023, and only Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber started more than 20 games.

“It was a challenge last year having two guys in our rotation go down for the season,” Freeland said. “I kind of felt like myself and Gomber had to really pick up that slack of two top-end starters.”

Black knew that the team was young, and outside Marquez and Senzatela, the team’s pitching staff offered little experience.

To fill the void left by the injuries to Marquez and Senzatela, Colorado went out during the winter and signed former St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Dakota Hudson and acquired right-hander Cal Quantrill from the Cleveland Guardians.

“What I really like is that there’s a track record of these guys’ performance,” Black said. “Two years ago, Cal won 15 games. Dakota, look at his win-loss record, well over .500… so these guys have been winning pitchers in the big leagues. I think there’s an experience factor to both guys.

“They’ve got good heads on their shoulders. They think the right way. They’re calm, poised, professional pitchers. And I think that’s a good thing for our club and a lot of our younger pitchers to be rubbing shoulders with those two guys.”

Quantrill and Hudson are coming off injury issues of their own, but appear to be healthy now and ready to fill out the Colorado rotation.

Quantrill, taken eighth overall by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 draft, was traded to the Guardians during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He was a mainstay in the rotation from 2021-22, recording a 3.16 ERA in 54 starts.

Things took a turn in 2023 for Quantrill. A shoulder injury forced him to sit out for nearly half the season, affecting his performance during sporadic starts. Though he had a strong September in which he posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in six starts, he ended the season with a career-high 5.24 ERA. The Guardians shipped him to Colorado on Nov. 17.

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“Last year I think the problem was that I struggled a little bit with injuries,” Quantrill said. “But I finished off strong, and now I’m here. The goal is to stay healthy the whole year, post up every fifth day and start something special here in Colorado.”

After a breakout 2019, in which he finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting with a 16-7 record and a 3.35 ERA in 174 2/3 innings, Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2020, forcing him to sit out nearly the entire 2021 season.

He struggled with more injuries during parts of the 2022 and 2023 campaigns and found himself back at square one, toying with his mechanics in Triple-A, hoping to return to his former level of dominance.

The Cardinals called Hudson up on July 1, and he finished the 2023 campaign with a 4.98 ERA over 81 1/3 innings. Still, the former first-rounder was non-tendered and granted free agency. He signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Colorado in January.

Hudson rose through the Cardinals’ minor league system with Gomber, where they developed a friendship over the years. Now they’re reunited in Colorado. Hudson is excited to be alongside Gomber again in Colorado and ready to get the ball rolling with the collection of arms the Rockies have assembled.

“I know Dakota well, he’s a guy that’s had success at the big league level and has a good track record,” Gomber said. “I think we’re excited about the depth of guys we’ll have this year, and then we’re going to get some guys back from injury. And then we’ve got a lot of young arms in camp that have been impressive, so I think it’s a good mix.”

Over the offseason, the NL West, which was already loaded, became a powerhouse with the addition of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as numerous additions to both the Arizona Diamondbacks (Eduardo Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez) and San Francisco Giants (Blake Snell, Jorge Soler, Matt Chapman, Jung Hoo Lee).

The Rockies know it’ll be tough to compete in the division, but the additions to the pitching staff give the team a sense of security as the regular season looms.

“We know what they’re capable of,” Freeland said. “So it’s nice to have solidified starters in your rotation that you can really trust and know that they’re going to grab the ball every five days and then go out and do their thing.”

Aaron Schmidt EH-run shmit
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aaron Schmidt expects to graduate in spring 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production. In addition to the Phoenix Sports Bureau, Schmidt reports for The Arizona Republic and The State Press. He has also interned with Arizona’s Family and Arizona Sports 98.7.