Goss: Quigley’s major league dream is alive
By Dick Goss November 8, 2011 5:00PM
Former Joliet Catholic and Joliet Slammers pitcher Ryan Quigley is entering his second season in the San Diego Padres organization. | File photo
Updated: December 10, 2011 8:07AM
Bill Bryk, a major league scout and special assistant to Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, saw something he liked.
“He scouts independent ball, and he saw me on a night I threw pretty well,” former Joliet Slammers closer Ryan Quigley said. “They (Diamondbacks) sent a couple other scouts to playoff games, and after the season, they offered me a contract.
“I was pretty certain something would happen with them or with someone else. Some other teams also were interested.”
Exciting news, indeed. The Slammers recently sold Quigley’s contract to the Diamondbacks. He will be in minor league spring training with the team in March.
If Quigley passes his physical in the spring and all else goes well, he finally will have the opportunity to show his wares in affiliated ball. During the 2011 season, his contract was sold to the Washington Nationals. But the Nationals’ doctor determined he failed the physical, and Quigley rejoined the Slammers.
Now, if the ultimate occurs, the Joliet native, who honed his pitching skills at Joliet Catholic and St. Xavier University, one day will fulfill his dream of playing in the major leagues.
Yes, many young ballplayers share that dream, but only a tiny percentage realize it. The odds may be against it happening.
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“With my age (26), I know I have to make the Double-A or Triple-A team in the spring,” Quigley said. “I have no problem with that. I have to come in and impress them, be in midseason form. If I don’t perform well, I go home.
“You don’t see many 26-27 year-olds getting signed out of independent ball. What happens is they look at your numbers, and if you have good numbers, they come out to take a look at you. You have to show them something when they see you. Everything they (Diamondbacks) have told me is I have the potential to pitch in the big leagues.”
Quigley broke the Frontier League saves record this summer in helping the Slammers to the league championship. Slammers pitching coach Carmen Pignatiello pitched in the major leagues with the Cubs and has said he feels Quigley is good enough to reach that level.
A combination of a work regimen second to none, a couple of plus pitches and a winning mentality on the mound suggest it could happen.
“I have played with and against lots of guys who are in Double A, Triple A and the majors,” Quigley said. San Diego reliever Luke Gregerson, for example, was one year his senior at St. Xavier.
“Being realistic, I thought I still have the stuff to compete on that level, so it made sense for me to keep going,” he added.
Quigley failed the physical with the Nationals because of a right knee issue. He had arthroscopic surgery on that knee after the season and is confident he will pass the Diamondbacks’ physical. One thing is certain, he will arrive in spring training ready to pitch.
“I was supposed to go to Puerto Rico for the winter league, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “I signed with an agent and he’s working on getting me to Mexico in the league where (former Joliet Township slugger and Cubs and Orioles farmhand) Brandon Sing is playing. I hope something can get worked out. If I don’t go down there, I’ll keep working out and around Christmas time I’ll start a throwing program.”
Quigley throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs and a hard slider. He said he occasionally uses a changeup against left-handed hitters.
“I’m basically a two-pitch reliever,” he said. “In a relief role, I’m a believer that you don’t need to complicate it. If you have two pitches that work well, you can succeed.
“But when you get to the higher levels, you won’t always get a lot of strikeouts like I got here. You have to be able to get guys to hit the ball on the ground.”
Quigley had been named after the season as the pitching coach at University of St. Francis for new head coach Brian Michalak. He is working with the team daily, “but more as an assistant pitching coach now,” he said.
The Saints’ new pitching coach is Brian Smith, who was superb as Quigley’s eighth-inning setup man with the Slammers.
“We already transitioned the coaching from me to him,” Quigley said. “Brian is my roommate and he will play for the Slammers again next season. His dad, Bill, played for Gordie (Gillespie) at St. Francis in the ’80s.”
In a worst-case scenario, if things do not go as hoped with the Diamondbacks, Quigley pointed out he has one year of eligibility in the Frontier League. “The Slammers still hold my rights for independent ball,” he said. “I’m hoping that won’t be the case, but this is not a bad place to play.”