"The kids can play."
That's how one of the many annual slogans the PR department on the South Side has thought up went roughly 15 years ago. Turns out it's pretty applicable here in the final days of the 2013 season.
Monday night's 3-2 win over the Blue Jays didn't feature Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn slugging homers out of U.S. Cellular Field, nor did it feature an elder statesman hurling a gem on the mound. No. Instead, the Sox got big home runs from Marcus Semien and Avisail Garcia. They got another sterling outing from Jose Quintana. And maybe, just maybe, they got a glimpse of what a winning future might look like.
"That’s part of having them up here," manager Robin Ventura said. "Moving forward, you’re seeing which guys kind of fit in moving forward and trying to turn it around and be a better team in the future. I think Marcus is making a good case for himself that he can play at this level. He’s not only swinging the bat, but even playing defense tonight, he made some good plays defensively. He just seems like a baseball player. He’s aware of what’s going on."
In Semien's brief September call-up, the 23-year-old has done nothing but impress, and he was at it again Monday. Not only did he get the Sox on the board with a two-run homer that went out just inside the left-field foul pole in the second inning, but he made several strong defensive plays at third base and also showcased his speed, beating out an infield single on a ground ball to the shortstop.
"He has a lot of tools that he uses," Ventura said. "He’s a smart baseball player and instinctively, he does a lot of the right things. It’s just letting him play and letting experience this and moving forward, we’re getting to see what he can do and so far it’s been good."
"I've been playing there most of the time up here," Semien said of his growing comfort at third base. "I'm getting more comfortable every day. I'm doing a lot of work with Joe (McEwing) and trying to get better every day."
The two hits Monday raised Semien's batting average up over .300 -- it's at .306 to be precise -- and the youngster is creating all sorts of conversation about whether he deserves a not just a roster spot but a starting role on next year's team. Semien, though, said he's not thinking about such things.
"I feel good about the way I've been playing. I try not to worry about making a case for myself or anything like that," he said. "I'm just focused on helping the team win, and I'm glad we got the win tonight."
Then there's Garcia, the 22-year-old outfielder, heralded as a cornerstone of this Sox makeover. His fifth-inning blast came after a Toronto solo shot momentarily halved the Sox lead, and it extended it back to two runs at 3-1. The player who Dunn called a "five-tool freak of nature" before Monday's game now has four homers since joining the White Sox.
But don't forget about the pitcher. Quintana is just 24 years of age, and he turned in another terrific performance Monday to add to his breakout season. Quintana allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk, striking out six in 7 1/3 innings. More notably, he earned a win -- his ninth of the season -- something that has been hard to come by for him in a year that's seen him enter the American League record books with 17 no decisions.
"Of course. I’m very happy with the win," Quintana said through a translator. "I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep working. And hopefully continue to help the team that way."
Speaking of continuing, many expect Quintana to continue into next season as one of the White Sox top two pitchers. Watching him develop into a top-of-the-rotation guy has been one of the big positives of this Sox season, though he doesn't care where he stacks up on a list of the team's arms.
"I don’t think about that," he said. "I just want to do a good job and give the team a good opportunity to win. I take that as an opportunity every time I’m out there. As long as I can give the team an opportunity to win, that’s all I can ask myself."
He's done that plenty, though it hasn't always happened. But now that he's joined by some more young blood in White Sox uniforms, perhaps that'll change come 2014.