Friday, Oct. 1, 2010
Updated 11:33 PM
By Brett Ballantini
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.