PITTSBURGH — After it was announced that Quinn Priester was going to get the call-up to the big leagues Saturday afternoon, he was in the Pirates clubhouse Sunday morning ahead of his anticipated major league debut Monday night against the Cleveland Guardians.
The right-hander made it through one inning of work during his scheduled start on Friday for the Indianapolis Indians before being told the news that he was being called up.
Priester recounted the emotions that were going through his mind when Indians manager Miguel Perez told him that he was going to Pittsburgh.
“After the first inning. I got a comebacker off my calf, so he was like ‘We’re not risking you going back out.’ I was like, ‘C’mon man what are you talking about?’ Then he ended up telling me that I was coming to the big leagues. That was a really special moment for it to happen in the dugout with all my teammates down there.”
Over the course of this season, the major league roster has seen an injection of youth on its roster as many of the Pirates top prospects the likes of Henry Davis, Nick Gonzales, Jared Triolo and now Endy Rodriguez and Liover Peguero have all gotten the call to the big leagues. Priester is excited to be back playing with the same guys he grew up in the system with and believes that the transition into the big leagues will be easier for him because of it.
“It’s awesome,” Priester said. “Me, Nick (Gonzales) and Triolo have been together since Greensboro, so it’s a great thrill and to be able to have that sense of having people that I know really well in the clubhouse is going to make it a little easier. It’s not like I’m going to have to meet all new people, all new teammates essentially. Having all those guys, it’s been really consistent throughout my career and it’s really cool to be here with them and share this experience with them.”
As first pitch inches closer and closer, Priester believes that it will be business as usual when he takes the mound Monday night against the Guardians but will be sure to soak in the moment.
“I typically get anxious for starts while getting prepared wherever I’ve been at. This will be much the same – getting my body prepared, getting my mind prepared in my own way. Definitely anxious but taking the next couple of days to take it all in and I don’t mind if it takes a long time because these are two days I’m never getting back. I definitely want to cherish the moment and appreciate all the people who helped me get here”
In April, the 22-year-old right-hander’s path to Pittsburgh might have looked different has he had a slow start to the season in Indianapolis as in five starts he allowed 17 while posting a 7.78 ERA. But after a rough start to the season and dealing with issuing walks, Priester bounced back as over the course of 13 starts, the pitched 68 innings allowing just 25 runs in that span while posting a 3.31 ERA with batters hitting at a .237 clip.
Priester discussed the adjustments that he made with Indianapolis that were able to get him back on track and pitching the same as he did as he was working his way through the Pirates system.
“Just really committing to my plan, trying to get outs with every pitch. Sometimes you try and strike guys out more than I want to. That’s when you start to spray and throw the swing-and-miss breaking balls rather than just let the breaking balls be swing-and-miss. So, staying with an approach, kind of getting back to what I do well, which is getting ground balls and getting guys out early in counts. Once I got back to that, you get to two strikes pretty quickly, then you can go for that punchout. It was great to be able to see that and re-adjust and get back in there.”
As Priester begins to make the adjustment to big league-level hitters he is also looking to continue to develop consistency with all of his pitches when he hits the mound for the Pirates.
“Developing consistency in the changeup, throwing the same one every single time. That’s been big. They’ve been good more often than not,” Priester said. “Just being able to keep the consistency there, consistency with all five pitches start to start is always gonna be huge. Largely it’s about getting outs now. We can work on stuff in the middle of the week, but I’m gonna go in with my best stuff, period. Right now it’s just about getting outs. Getting better, getting outs, learning how to get as many outs a game as I can. Learn something, get better every single day, and I think things will take care of themselves.”
Learning and making adjustments is all part of the process for every player but Priester will have the opportunity to be around a veteran arm in 43-year-old right-hander Rich Hill and first-time All-Star Mitch Keller. Preister is excited about the opportunity to be around these pitchers and looks forward to learning from some of the top arms on the Pirates staff.
“I’ll be asking them questions. Hopefully, I don’t annoy them too much. I definitely expect to be asking tons of questions. If I see something in the game, go over and just, ‘Hey, what’d you see here?’ But I’m not sure what that’s going to be yet. That’s why I need to ask the questions. Just kind of take things in stride. Try to learn something every single day, and try to get better at something every day. If I do that, I think I’ll be alright.”
As the Pirates pitching depth has dwindled throughout the season that has given an opportunity to Priester as he looks to solidify himself into the starting rotation tonight against the Cleveland Guardians as he makes his major league debut.