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Sox' Quentin far from damaged goods now
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Carlos Quentin seems to have discovered a resurgence to his once-promising career.

 

Mary Beth Nolan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/9/2008 12:09 AM

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Carlos Quentin almost didn't have enough uniform space to hold all of the prestigious labels stamped on his muscular physique as he cruised up baseball's ladder.

• College All-American.

• First-round draft pick.

• No. 1 prospect.

• Five-tool player.

And it wasn't just conjecture.

The 25-year-old San Diego native cracked a home run for the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 20, 2006 -- his first day in the big leagues.

He homered again in his second start. And his third start. And he cranked a pinch-hit homer before he made his fourth career start.

"You could not have gotten him (in a trade)," said White Sox general manager Kenny Williams. "There wasn't a price.

"As a matter of fact, I think I did ask. And they weren't interested in moving him."

Then came the 2007 season, when Quentin's lofty labels couldn't lose their adhesiveness and fall to the ground fast enough.

It was as if Quentin already had become an honorary member of the White Sox.

He suffered a partial tear of the labrum in his left shoulder during spring training, an injury that forced him to start the season on the disabled list.

Once he returned to the lineup, he never found his old form.

The Diamondbacks started him in the 5-hole. But as they got into the heat of the pennant race and Quentin kept chasing breaking pitches down and away, they dropped him all the way down to eighth in the order before benching him in favor of phenom Justin Upton.

Since Quentin hit just .214 with 5 homers for the year, it was an easy choice for Arizona to leave him off its postseason roster.

"(20)07 was like hell, something I'd never, ever experienced before," Quentin said. "When you feel like you've put together strong years and you've done so well and you've been labeled like this (five-tool) type of player, to go through that and feel like you can't overcome it …

"Throughout my baseball career, I've been able to overcome struggles. Going through that, it was like hell. But I learned a lot about myself and how this game changes and how people can label you this or label you that."

Quentin was labeled primarily as damaged goods when the White Sox acquired him Dec. 3 for power-hitting minor-leaguer Chris Carter.

He underwent surgery on his left shoulder during last year's playoffs, which limited his effectiveness until midway through spring training.

Suddenly, with virtually no fanfare, Quentin finds himself an integral part of the American League's most productive offense.

Since the left fielder moved into the starting lineup Thursday, the Sox have gone 5-0 and Quentin has batted .316 with an on-base percentage of .409 and slugging percentage of .579.

Thanks to that fast start, along with those of Nick "Dirty 30" Swisher and Jermaine Dye, the White Sox have gone from having the league's least-productive outfield to its most productive.

Last year, the 11 guys who spent time patrolling the Sox outfield combined for a .261 batting average, .326 on-base percentage and .405 slugging percentage.

So far this season the five guys who've shared the outfield have put up a collective .313 average, .427 on-base average and .550 slugging percentage.

"We're just getting better offense from the outfield," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Quentin gives you good at-bats, Swisher gives you good at-bats, and Dye gives you good at-bats. That's what counts."

Well, that and good health. As each day passes, Quentin looks more like the player he has been almost his entire life.

"He's got a real good chance to be a special player," Williams said. "We'll all know more … when he's driving balls in that right-center-field gap up against the wall and up in the bleachers.

"When you start to see that, then you're going to know he's back to where he previously was."

"If you asked me I could wish '07 never to happen, I'd probably tell you, 'No, it needed to happen,' " Quentin said. "Because it gave me a new respect for this game and the opportunities I've been given.

"It's not even worth my time thinking about (labels). I used to be a little more concerned about that. Now it's just go play."

Green, green grass of home (plate)

Yes, it's early. Yes, seven games is an insignificant sample size. But Jermaine Dye, Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin have the White Sox outfielders on a pace to produce far more runs in 2008 than they did in 2007.

White Sox' 2007 outfielders (11 players)

Games Runs HR RBI BA OBP Slug RC/game*

162 254 54 207 .261 .326 .405 4.51

White Sox' 2008 outfielders (five players)

Games Runs HR RBI BA OBP Slug RC/game*

7 19 4 14 .313 .427 .550 7.94

Projected 2008 totals:

162 440 93 324 .313 .427 .550 7.94

*Runs created per game: A formula that projects the number of runs the White Sox would average per game if the outfielders batted in all nine spots in the order.

Source: Baseball-Reference.com