Quintana ready for opener against Tigers
By Andrew Seligman
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — With all the moves the Chicago White Sox made and all the rumors surrounding him, Jose Quintana seemed like a good bet to be traded by now.
Instead, he was leaning against the dugout railing, surrounded by microphones and notepads.
On Monday, he’ll start his first season opener when the White Sox meet Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
“My future is the present. It’s the present,” Quintana said Sunday. “My future is here. I have to just control this year. I pay attention to right now. I’m focusing on the 2017 season and helping my team. I’m happy here and that’s it. Just focus on the present.”
The White Sox made some big changes coming off a 78-84 season, starting with their philosophy.
They decided it was time to rebuild after four straight losing seasons. That meant trading ace Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton for young players management hopes will jolt a franchise with just one playoff appearance since the 2005 championship season. Plus, they hired a new manager — Rick Renteria is in, Robin Ventura is out.
The work is only beginning.
Quintana posted a career-high 3.20 ERA and made his first All-Star team last year. He has four straight seasons with at least 200 innings. Throw in a club-friendly contract that keeps him under team control through 2020, and it adds up to an attractive target for suitors.
Quintana said he would like to remain with the White Sox. But he also realizes that’s not his decision.
“I don’t think he’s reached out or even spoken about it to me,” said Renteria, who got promoted from bench coach. “His biggest thing is just focusing on preparing for the season. I haven’t had any conversations in terms of having to deal with rumors or anything of that nature. He’s prepared just like any of the other guys have getting ready for the season. He’s a pro and will continue to be that. I don’t have any concerns about him being worried about anything else.”
The Tigers are in a different position than Chicago, with their eyes on the playoffs after missing the postseason for the second straight year. They finished eight games behind World Series runner-up Cleveland in the AL Central and fell just short of a wild card.
There’s been talk of cutting costs after owner Mike Ilitch died at age 87 in February and there could be big changes after this year. But with Verlander coming off a near Cy Young season and sluggers such as Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila anchoring the lineup, general manager Al Avila sees a team poised to contend with a roster returning largely intact.
“Cleveland obviously is the class of big league baseball right now if not the American League,” he said. “But the American League Central division is still very tough. … But we do feel we have a good team, a team that’s going to compete. We really like our starting rotation with the young guys mixed with the veteran guys. We feel we can score some runs.”
That might be a little tougher for the first few weeks with right fielder J.D. Martinez, who hit .307 with 22 homers last year, recovering from a sprained right foot. He is expected to have the cast removed on Monday and begin rehabilitation this week.
Avila said the Tigers “will look into” adding outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., maybe on a minor league contract, after he was released by Toronto on Sunday.
“We’ll be talking about it as a possibility,” Avila said.