Sox Drawer: Quentin gains perspective

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Sox Drawer: Quentin gains perspective

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
5:32 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz -- A gentle breeze blew through Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. And heres some breaking news for you:

It was Carlos Quentin.

The ultra-focused outfielder who has spent the last two seasons playing baseball with an internal tornado whizzing through his head, arrived at spring training looking a whole lot lighter.

Some physically, but mostly mentally.

I just worked on some things to come back...and enjoy this game a little better, Quentin said. I would be foolish not to learn from things that Ive consistently repeated in my life and baseball career. Its been a consistent process for me and Im going to keep going with it.

No baseball player beats himself up more than Quentin, who seems to put himself through a 15-round heavyweight fight every time he takes the field. Spread that over the course of an entire baseball season, and Quentin ended the year with more stress and tension than the Golden Gate Bridge.

Something had to give.

Pressure has always been something that has been self-inflicted by myself. So its something Ive worked on to lighten up and enjoy this game this off-season, Quentin said. I talked with Ozzie (Guillen) a lot about last year and things I want to be accountable for. Things I need to be more accountable for. I feel like if I perform well, Ill be able to help this team.

Despite his mental struggles, plus injuries to his left hamstring and left knee, Quentin still finished with 26 home runs and 87 RBIs in 131 games last season. Surprising.

One of Quentins teammates who also reported for duty on Tuesday can relate to his internal battles, because they once nearly bulldozed his own career.

His name is Paul Konerko.

Ive done a wrong a million times. The potential is always there to do a wrong again, Konerko said. Its a day in and day out thing. Some guys have it naturally built in to do it the right way. I dont. And I dont think Carlos does. It took me a lot longer than it should have. Hopefully with him, its going to take less time than that.

If Tuesday was any indication, Quentin is headed in the right direction. The key, however, is to stay there.

I think hes on the right page now, but we all got to fight that fight once the season starts, Konerko said. Its not easy, but its in there. Everybody believes in him, otherwise he wouldnt be back here. They would have done something.

They is Kenny Williams who would like nothing more than to see Quentin recapture his MVP form of 2008.

This is a pretty special player, said the White Sox GM. And sometimes I think he loses sight of that and just tries to do too much and tries to carry too much weight. On this team I dont believe he needs to carry that much weight, and thats one of the things we tried to do is to allow him now to drop in the order a little bit. His responsibilities are lessened. All he has to do, forget about the home runs, is just get on base, because hes an on-base percentage machine.

Right now, Quentin is smiling and laughing, even hamming it up Tuesday with our CSN camera. Its the Carlos weve all been waiting to see. But this is spring training. Once the regular season begins, the White Sox will be watching Quentin closely to see how he reacts when things go south.

Because in baseball, they always do.

The real test comes in April when youve gone 2-3 games and you dont have a hit and youve lost all three games, Williams said. Thats the real test of when youre going to put those newly developed skills to the test. So well see. Hell find out and well find out together.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”