When Robin Ventura was hired in October, it was easy to speculate that he'd be a boon to the development of third baseman Brent Morel. After all, Ventura was one of the best third basemen ever to put on a White Sox uniform, both offensively and defensively.
But as Ventura sees it, he won't be giving too many tips and pointers to Morel, at in terms of his glove.
"Hopefully he can give some to me. He's pretty good," Ventura said. "I don't worry too much about Brent defensively. I think he's a great third baseman."
Morel's glove work didn't draw too many questions in 2011. His offense, though, did.
Through the end of August, Morel had just a .588 OPS with just seven walks in 341 plate appearances. He only struck out 39 times in those 341 trips to the plate, but that may have been part of the problem.
"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. "Toward the end, I relaxed a little bit and was more selective and patient up there. That helped me out."
In September, Morel hit eight home runs, took 15 walks and struck out 18 times in 103 plate appearances. And while his batting average was still low a .224, his on-base percentage was a solid .340.
While Morel did pull the ball more in September (and August, for that matter), it wasn't something he tried to do. Instead, it was something that came naturally as he became more comfortable with his approach.
"It just kind of worked out that way," Morel said. I wasn't really trying to pull or go the other way. Just being more patient and seeing more pitches and cover the whole plate."
Those late-season developments were, according to Morel, just part of the learning process for a young hitter.
"You kinda go through your ups and downs there throughout the year. It's an elite level of competition, so I'm never going to feel truly at home there," explained Morel. "But I just learned a little bit about myself, my approach and getting comfortable in the major leagues, getting used to pitching what they're trying to do to me."
That line from Morel about never truly feeling comfortable at such an elite level isn't something on which to dwell. He's someone who doesn't need to be elite at the plate, because he has the ability to be elite in the field as he gains more experience. While he has good instincts, good hands and a good arm, his defense is something that'll improve with more repetitions and familiarity with his opponents.
"You have spray charts, you know tendencies like when you're supposed to play close to the line or more in the hole. But it's kind of just a feel, what you think he's going to do, what your pitcher has working that day, is he throwing a lot of ground balls, pop flies," said Morel. "It's just kind of like a feel for the game and trying to make an educated guess between that and the charts."
And, of course, having a wealth of information about third base from the team's manager can't hurt.