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Focus on Athleticism Key For Quinn Priester in Battle for Rotation Spot



Quinn Priester, Pittsburgh Pirates

Quinn Priester is scheduled to make his spring training debut on Wednesday when the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Detroit Tigers at LECOM Park.

He does so knowing he’s in competition for one of the two open rotation spots behind Mitch Keller, Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales.

Priester, the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2019, made his big-league debut last season. Things didn’t go the way he would have wished.

The right-hander totaled 10 appearances, eight of which came as a starting pitcher. He went 3-3 with a 7.74 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 27 walks in 50 innings pitched.

“It sucks to suck,” Priester bluntly said on his rookie performance. “It doesn’t feel good when you’re not performing well or getting the results that you want, whether you feel that you’re doing well or not. It wasn’t a good feeling coming away from last year with the results that we had.”

There were obvious growing pains when watching Priester attempting to get his feet under him as a major-league player for the first time.

Priester would sometimes start off pitching well, but would let problems snowball whenever they arose. It’s not uncommon, think of Mitch Keller prior to his career-resurgence.

Additionally, as the game marched on, Priester would fade. In innings four-six, Priester had a 12.43 ERA, compared to a 4.18 ERA in the first three innings.

What was that cause?

“The biggest thing is consistency. You have to be consistent,” manager Derek Shelton said. “The second thing is just minimalizing damage. I think last year that the damage went from one or two hitters and expanded into four or five hitters and then that’s a big inning. Being able to control the damage, which would be being consistent.”

As Priester looks to improve his consistency and overall performance from his first taste in the major leagues, he thinks he may have found the key.

The focus this offseason for Priester has been athleticism when he’s on the mound, something that eluded him last season.

“The focus of being in the zone and strike throwing, I was able to get away with it throughout the minor leagues. I was able to find success not performing at the best that I could,” said Priester. “It kind of was disguising how good I could really be, in my opinion. The big leagues really forces that adaptation and I feel like I’ve taken a step toward becoming that best version of myself again. I think the best version of myself is the most athletic one.”

Priester feels that he is in a much better spot this spring. Now it will be about incorporating what he’s done in the offseason.

With two open spots in the rotation, Priester feels as though he will prove he’s deserving to head to Miami with the Pirates for their opening day matchup with the Marlins.

He’ll get his first audition to prove it on Wednesday afternoon.

“Extremely (motivated). That hasn’t changed … Last year and this year, the mentality has been the same, to prove that I’m one of the five best guys here and prove that on the field and nothing else,” he said. “Those decisions are out of my hand, and there’s never not gonna be that competitiveness, not only to be on the team but to be the best.”

In addition to Priester, Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz and Bailey Falter are the other primary options in competition for a rotation spot. All three have already made their spring debuts.

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