Fort Wayne catcher Juan Fernandez has had the perfect view to see the improvement in reliever Jose Quezada.
Last season, Fernandez caught Quezada while the former Texas Tech standout struggled in limited action with the TinCaps after being selected by the Padres in the 10th round of the 2018 Draft.
This season, Fernandez has seen Quezada whittle his ERA down from 4.26 in 2018 to 2.82 in 2019, emerging as a mainstay in the TinCaps bullpen while posting a 1.38 WHIP and 6-3 record over a team-high 41 appearances.
"Jose is a different pitcher this year," Fernandez said. "When he throws the ball, he has more control. He also has a better curve and a better changeup this year. The main thing for him is better control.
"I think he's ready to pitch in the big leagues," the catcher continued. "He has a very good fastball, and he's getting consistent with it. He's really worked hard. He works hard every day. He's made himself special. He has great concentration in practice and in the game."
Quezada made his mark as a shortstop in high school, as well as a starting pitcher. That changed at Texas Tech, where he honed his skills as a reliever.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Quezada has tormented batters in the Midwest League with a 97-mph fastball.
2019 MiLB include
"I struggled a little at the beginning of this season, but I kept working and I learned how to do things the right way," Quezada said. "Last year, I had difficulties with my arm. It would bother me when I threw. I couldn't pitch the way I wanted to. This year, I'm healthy and I'm having fun."
Quezada said he's increased the velocity of his fastball in the professional ranks.
"I've had to learn how to use my body to help with my velocity," Quezada said. "I didn't throw this hard before. Learning at the professional level, learning to use my body has been really important in terms of developing my fastball."
To develop into a more effective reliever, Quezada is using his slider more.
"My slider is one of my best pitches," he said. "It helps me to have more power in my fastball. I throw a changeup sometimes. It's something I'm working on. I'm comfortable with my changeup, but if I can get outs with two pitches, my fastball and my slider, then I'm going to do that."
Quezada is committed to working every day to pursue his goal of pitching in the Majors.
"I like to watch film to help make myself better, and I read about pitching, usually Tread Athletics," Quezada said. "Sometimes just watching little things make a difference. You have to find something you can get better at, work on that and then find something else and work on that."
Pursuit of knowledge is a cornerstone of the Quezada family. His family sent him from his home in Chihuahua, Mexico, to live with friends of the family in Colorado when he was 16 to pursue better educational opportunities.
"My education was the main priority for my family, and baseball was important, too," said Quezada, who earned a degree in kinesiology at Texas Tech. "Education is always first for me and for my family. As far as baseball, my family and I felt that I would have a better opportunity if I moved to the United States. It was scary coming here at first. I just had to persevere. When I got here, I didn't know a single drop of English. Baseball helped me a lot with that.
"I just had to keep trying to learn the language. You fail, you learn. I think my experiences moving here have helped me in baseball, as far as building relationships. It's been helpful to now be able to speak two languages."
Powerful debut: Former Indiana University star Matt Lloyd made a powerful impression in his debut with the Dayton Dragons. Lloyd hammered a three-run homer in his first swing in his first game. Lloyd, who can play outfield and infield positions, also had a blast (make that three) in his opening week with Billings to start his pro career, crushing three homers in his first four home games. Lloyd, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, was also a closer at Indiana.
Del Valle delivers: Burlington's Francisco Del Valle helped the Bees snap a nine-game losing streak with a power display. Del Valle whacked two homers and a double, driving in four runs, as the Bees rallied for a 5-3 victory against Wisconsin.
Moving on up: South Bend manager Buddy Bailey earned career victory No. 2,129 as the Cubs defeated Lansing, 8-4 on Aug. 8. Bailey now ranks sixth on the all-time Minor League Baseball manager victory list. He surpassed Larry Gilbert with win No. 2,129. Bailey has a chance to move into fifth place on the list next season.