Reno Aces infielder Juniel Querecuto lives up to his name.
In Spanish, the name Querecuto indicates a person’s ambition, strength, reliability and determination despite their size. The 5-foot-9 shortstop/second baseman reflects those same qualities on the field, from his quick glove to his dependable bat in the lineup.
Nicknamed “JQ,” Querecuto went 1-for-4 with a double in a 9-3 Mother’s Day defeat to Salt Lake. Primarily a plug-and-play infielder, he started his fifth game of the season in left field. In 22 games, he’s totaled 83 innings at every position other than pitcher, catcher and first base.
“Wherever they put me, I’ll do my best,” he said. “I’ve played shortstop, second and third in the infield and all three (positions) in the outfield. As long as it keeps me in the lineup, I try to help the team.”
A native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Querecuto wore his country’s colors for the Venezuelan national team during the Caribbean World Series held in Guadalajara, Mexico. As the team’s starting shortstop, Querecuto batted .285 with a double and one RBI in four games.
Venezuela went 2-2 and finished in fourth place, but the extra work helped JQ get off to a hot start in Reno. He has up to two home runs and nine RBIs on the year.
“You have a lot of veteran guys down there,” he said. “You have some from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico so we all get along. It’s a very nice place to play, you can learn from them and bring that experience back over here, it makes it easier to transition. It helped a lot playing winter (baseball) there.”
Venezuelan teammate Ildemaro Vargas started the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving his No. 1 jersey up for grabs in Triple-A Reno. Querecuto, who wore No. 26 last season with the Aces, chose No. 1 to represent his Venezuelan double-play partner in crime.
“That’s my guy, we’re like brothers,” he said. “He’s my compadre as they say. I wear it for him. I’ve learned so much from his game and wish him the best.”
JQ has emulated Vargas’ similar cat-like quickness defensively. He got a good jump on the ball and made a leaping grab on the warning track in the first inning.
Whether it’s the infield or the outfield, Reno hasn’t missed a beat with Querecuto inserted into the starting lineup.
“I just play the brand of (baseball) that suits me best,” he said. “I don’t focus too much on my stats and how I’m doing personally rather than just making the right play on both sides or getting in scoring position for my guys.”
Reno has five players on its active roster from three different Latin countries. Vargas and Querecuto serve as the Venezuelan double-play connection. Abraham Almonte and Domingo Leyba represent the Dominican Republic. Yasmany Tomás is the lone player from Havana, Cuba.
Querecuto, who speaks English and Spanish, communicates with everyone on the team to unify the clubhouse.
“When we all speak the same language, it makes us a cohesive unit,” he said. “I can talk guys like Yasmany (Tomás), Domingo (Leyba) and Abraham (Almonte) with no problems. Language is the key, and it makes us united as a team.”
Querecuto began his career as a 16-year-old utility infielder for the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system. He made his MLB debut with Tampa Bay in 2016, appearing in four games before he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham.
Querecuto signed a minor league contract with the the San Francisco Giants in 2017. He elected for free agency in 2018 and found a home in the Biggest Little City.
“It’s good to be back here,” he said. “It’s fun playing with the rest of the guys and playing the game I love.”
Entering his 10th season, JQ sees a lot of potential with the Aces’ roster.
“We have something special here and it’s just the beginning for us,” he said. “We’ve had a few bumps along the way, but this team has a mix of young talent and veterans. … We need to play the right way and take it one series at a time.”
Puello’s grand slam powers Bees past Aces
Former outfielder Cesar Puello haunted Reno with a grand slam in the fifth.
Puello, who played in 73 games with Reno last season, jumped on a hanging fastball and launched it over the scoreboard in left field. He went 1-for-4 to help Salt Lake take the first two games of the series.
Jarrett Parker added an RBI double. Parker, 30, appeared in 135 games with the San Francisco Giants dating back to 2015. Taylor Ward unleashed the Bees’ fourth home run over the wall in left field.
Luis Renfigo hit the first inside-the-park home run at Greater Nevada Field since Sept. 2, 2018. Renfigo’s towering blast hit the wall in center field and didn’t stop until he got the jersey dirty sliding into home plate.
The Aces had 10 hits, with a Mother’s Day crowd of 4,482 cheering them on. Batting leadoff, Tim Locastro belted a 389-foot homer on the first pitch he saw. Locastro is third on the team with six home runs.
Ildemaro Vargas eclipsed 1,000 career minor league hits, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. The 2018 Pacific Coast League All-Star has more hits than anyone on the Aces roster. Vargas was batting a perfect 1.000 since coming back to Reno on Saturday, but he settled for an RBI groundout instead.
Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen’s bat has been coming alive during the home stand. The rangy infielder went 2-for-4 with a double. He’s 4-for-7 in the series with a homer and two RBIs.
Alex Young surrendered one earned run in 3.1 innings in his first start with the Aces. Young, who started the year out of the bullpen, struck out the side in the second inning with a deceptive two-seam fastball.
Right-hander Joey Krehbiel picked up his third loss of the season, giving up four earned runs in one inning of relief.
Salt Lake may have scored a whopping nine runs, but the Aces weren’t short-handed on defensive plays.
First baseman Kevin Cron ranged to his right and made a diving catch to save a pair of runs in the fourth. Mathisen gloved a line drive from Ward and fired a laser back to first for the double-play in the sixth inning.
Reno went up 1-0 at the end of the first. Salt Lake knotted the contest in the fourth. Puello’s grand slam capped-off a five-run fifth inning to put the Bees up 6-1. The Aces plated one run in the bottom of the fifth. Both teams recorded one run apiece in the seventh.
Notes: The Aces are 8-3 all-time on May 12. … Former Aces utility player Kelby Tomlinson was released from the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier today. Tomlinson, 28, hit .218 with three doubles and five RBIs in 30 games with Reno this season. … Reno is hitting .283 with runners in scoring position so far this season. … Right-hander Jon Duplantier was optioned back to Triple-A Reno following the Dbacks’ 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
On Deck: Reno, 14-23, face Salt Lake for the third game of the four-game series at 6:35 p.m. Aces pitcher Taylor Clarke will return to the hill after making his first career start with the Dbacks on May 7. Right-hander Nick Tropeano will get the start for the Bees.
— Isaiah Burrows