Is Morel falling back into bad habits?

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Is Morel falling back into bad habits?

In 45 games this spring, Brent Morel is hitting .326 with two doubles and a home run. That's the good news. The bad news is that his on-base percentage is also .326, the product of Morel not taking a single walk in the Cactus League.

It doesn't really matter that Morel is hitting .326. What matters is how he got to that point, and the lack of walks may not bode well for his regular-season outlook.

Through Morel's first 117 plate appearances last year, he didn't take a walk. He had a .237 batting average and a .566 OPS with just one home run. Morel took his first walk of the season on Memorial Day, and then proceeded to walk once in the months of June and July. His OPS wallowed below .600 through the end of August, although he showed signs of improvement toward the end of the month, taking three walks after Aug. 20.

Morel exploded in September, hitting eight home runs with an .893 OPS. More importantly, he focused on driving the ball and being more patient, which led to 15 walks in 103 plate appearances. The formula, while not exact, appears simple: if Morel is taking walks, he's going to be hitting well.

"I was just caught up trying to put the ball in play and just kinda move guys over and do that kind of stuff," Morel said of his April-August approach at SoxFest in January. "Toward the end, I relaxed a little bit and was more selective and patient up there. That helped me out."

Two things to glean from that quote: First, Morel certainly understands that patience will help drive results, and second, maybe it's best for Morel to not be hitting No. 2 in the lineup.

If he's hitting second, Morel would probably go back to concentrating on putting the ball in play and moving runners along instead of being a more productive offensive player. That's how two-hole hitters are viewed across the board in the majors -- as guys who can do the "little things," like handling the bat. Given what he did in September, it may be best for Morel to hit lower in the order, where he doesn't have to think about those things.

And maybe his lack of spring walks is a product of hitting No. 2. Of course, he hasn't taken any walks hitting elsewhere in the order, but maybe it's worth noting he did go 2-3 with a home run Tuesday hitting sixth.

Wherever Morel hits, though, he shouldn't try to just put the ball in play and move runners over. Given he's been tabbed as a breakout star for 2012, doing so would be a waste of potential.

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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White Sox ace Jose Quintana puts on a show in victory over Reds

White Sox ace Jose Quintana puts on a show in victory over Reds

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Those pesky, persistent trade rumors continue to be no match for White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana. 

The 2016 All-Star was outstanding on Thursday afternoon as he made his first Cactus League appearance in nearly a month. Still waiting on word if he'll be the team's Opening Day starter, Quintana pitched seven scoreless innings against a thin Cincinnati Reds lineup in a 4-2 White Sox victory at Camelback Ranch. 

Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts, Quintana limited Cincinnati to two hits in a 79-pitch outing and struck out three.

"I just try to turn the page quick and keep going," Quintana said. "Never watch behind me and try to go ahead every time I can. I want to put my team in a good position to win games. It's good when you win games in spring training. It brings good energy for the season."

Quintana on Thursday followed the same format he did for Colombia against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Reds hitters he faced. Even after he surrendered a hit, Quintana got back to work. Featuring a fastball that sat between 91-93 mph early, Quintana had Cincinnati hitters off-balance all day. After he exited the game, Quintana sprinted to the right-field bullpen to throw 15 more pitches as he continues to build arm strength.

The outing is more of the same consistency the White Sox have come to expect from their trusted lefty. It's also why they refuse to remove the high sticker price attached to Quintana, who has competed at least 200 innings the past four seasons with a 3.32 overall ERA in that span.

As Opening Day approaches, the White Sox continue to listen to offers for Quintana but have refused to budge on their price. Manager Rick Renteria said on Wednesday he needed a few more days before naming his starter for the April 3 opener, which suggests the team would still trade Quintana at this late date. But unless one of the team's suitors finally antes up, it's hard to believe that anyone other than Quintana would take the mound against the Detroit Tigers when the 2017 season kicks off at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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Quintana is on target to pitch again Tuesday, though perhaps in a minor league game as the White Sox face Kansas City that day. His next turn would come on April 2, which would easily afford the team the chance to push him back one day. 

Giving Quintana the nod in the opener would be the latest honor bestowed upon him. Earlier this month, Quintana dominated the eventual WBC champion as he didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning. That performance came after an outstanding campaign in which Quintana finally appeared in an All-Star Game.

All of the above has Quintana feeling pretty good about his abilities. 

"I have confidence in me, and every time I go out there I just try to have fun and enjoy that time," Quintana said. "I spend good time with my teammates. Every time I go to the mound, I feel pretty good."

Nicky Delmonico homered and singled in a run in the victory for the White Sox. He drove in three runs and hit his third homer of the spring. Leury Garcia also had two hits and made a pair of nice defensive plays at second base.