More Morel: Sox rookie secures the hot corner

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More Morel: Sox rookie secures the hot corner

Friday, Oct. 1, 2010
Updated 11:33 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen pulls no punches when it comes to his opinion of September call-upsbelieve me, I dont need to see anyone.

And after an initial encouraging glimpse, that includes even the one player who made his major-league debut last month whos wowed the White Sox skipper with his all-around play, third baseman Brent Morel.

Believe me, I know that Morel is a big-league player, Guillen said. Hes going to be there for good. Hes been playing for a month, and I love the way he plays.

The unassuming third sacker is taking little for granted, even Guillens glowing praise.

I dont really look too far into that, Morel said. Im just thankful for the opportunity to be up here right now, getting a chance to play every day, letting em see what I can do. I dont think it really matters how I do this year. Its just them getting a feel of me and how I play, and just going into spring training on Day One ready to compete.

True to his skippers confidence, however, Morel was one of the lone bright spots in Friday nights 7-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians, rapping his third home run of the season off of the left-field foul pole in the second and continuing to flash outstanding leather at the hot corner, robbing Matt LaPorta of a single in the fifth with a diving stop and pinpoint throw.

Morel has shown some significant pop in his short stint in the majors, with five extra-base hits (two doubles, three dingers) of his 13 hits helping swell his slugging percentage to .414.

I never experienced a day in the big leagues until now, and Im getting comfortable by the day, Morel said. You want to take every at-bat like its your last, and just go out there and fight no matter what the situation is.

The 23-year-old tells no lies; hes now hitting .313 with three RBI on this final homestand.

The night was ripe for a member of the White Sox youth movement to excel, as Guillen ran out several newbies at once for the first time since Chicago was eliminated from the playoff race. Only Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel and Mark Kotsay were carried over from the regular season lineup, as rookies Morel, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers hit the field along with youngsters Alejandro De Aza and Brent Lillibridge.

Lillibridge and Flowers took the collar Friday night, while Viciedo and De Aza contributed a combined three hits and two RBI. But its Morel who has impressed enough to be christened next seasons starter with just 19 games and three weeks of action under his belt.

Morel is batting just .224 after a 1-for-4 effort on Friday, but Guillen continues to rave over how he fights through all of his plate appearances. And for a defense-first manager, the way the rookie throws the leather alone would give him the inside track to 2011s hot corner job.

Meanwhile, in the withering pain that was Fridays game, Tony Penas third start was his worst. Despite taking the mound sporting a stingy 0.93 ERA vs. Cleveland in his career, Pena was pummeled by the Wahoos young lineup, surrendering nine hits and six earned runs in six innings. His general excellence in spot starts and extended relief outings aside, it would be assumed that Penas future as a White Sox starter likely ended on Friday. However, Guillen was forgiving, attributing the rough ride for Pena to anxiousness and inexperience.

The White Sox rallied in the ninth, scoring once, but their momentum fizzled under the weight of strikeouts from Morel and Lillibridge, and the Wahoos pocketed their seventh straight win, the teams longest in more than two seasons.

Even with the late-inning K, Guillen kept raining sun down on his rookie at the hot corner, repeating whats now a seasons-end mantra: Morel continues to impress at the plate and at third base.

In fact, Guillens smile is breaking as wide as the Kool-Aid Mans, an oddity especially in light of a winnable contest rendered a runaway: The only bad thing about this game is that we didnt win.

Whether Guillen is providing his rookies a soft spot to land or prepping himself for a sentimental Sunday that could mark the final White Sox games for World Series vets Paul Konerko, Freddy Garcia, A.J. Pierzynski and Bobby Jenks, its difficult to tell. But expect Shiny Happy Ozzie to return to U.S. Cellular Field Saturday for the middle game of this season-ending set, with encouraging words to burn.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

GLENDALE, ARIZ -- Ken Williams acknowledges that this is the first time as an executive that he's ever been a part of a rebuild.  After realizing their go-for-it attitude for more than a decade had run out of steam, the White Sox front office decided it needed to look in the mirror, take a step back, and start anew. It began this offseason with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, and will continue into this season and likely next season.

No longer involved in the day-to-day running of the White Sox, Williams believes he has found the right balance as the team's executive and vice president, utilizing his strengths in scouting and player development while overseeing things as Hahn reshapes the organization from top to bottom.

How does this dynamic work between Williams and Hahn? Williams goes in-depth on this subject and many others in our White Sox Talk Podcast conversation.

Among the highlights:

Working relationship with Rick Hahn: "The relationship has been the same and consistent since the very beginning.  We're constantly talking.  I'm not going to BS you and say that we don't have these conversations. I just think that a certain point in time, you just have to say here is your responsibility and mine is over here. I have to respect the fact that this is what you want to do. I'm only going to express my interest to a point so that you can come to your own decision without my influence and then we're getting to brass tax.  Most times than not, he'll express, 'Hey, I need to know what you think. But until that time you've got to give people the space to do a job as they see fit, and to plot a course as they see fit."

Trading Chris Sale: "Contrary to popular belief, we have enjoyed a great relationship over the years. There was obviously a little blip in that part of it and I've always understood him because I was a little bit like that when I was younger too.  It was very often a couple days later we'd visit and laugh about a couple things but also in a serious manner.  he's one of the best in the game.  How do you trade one of the best pitchers in the game and not feel some remorse about it?  On the other end of the spectrum we got what we think are special pieces that will be with us for quite a while assuming good health. And you can envision them being part of a championship team.  We got to the point where we couldn't envision that particular group that we had be a part of a championship team and that's what it's about."

Possibly trading Jose Quintana: "I have not been presented with anything that has been recommended by Rick that he wants to do. So in terms of closeness, we've bantered some things around, but Jose Quintana is a very, very special pitcher. I'm sure if something comes up where it's consistent with what we've done thus far then I'm sure Rick will put it in front of both Jerry and I.  But until that time, I can't say that anything has been close or relatively close."

His hopes for the White Sox: "My only goal at this point in my career is to help bring another championship to Chicago and to Chicago fans, watch Rick Hahn walk across the stage to receive an Executive of the Year award and watch Rick Renteria accept the Manager of the Year Award.  Then I will consider this a job well done. If any of those things don't happen, then it won't be.  I sincerely feel that in my heart."