CHICAGO -- Sorry Brent Morel, it’s going to be awfully hard to avoid the comparisons between you and your new manager Robin Ventura.
Last season Morel was being compared most often to Joe Crede, but with Ventura occupying the manager’s office now, a new comparison has taken over. It’s enough to make Morel cringe.
“I don’t feel like there should be a comparison [with Ventura] at all, or anything like that,” Morel said, suggesting he isn't worthy of it at this stage of his career. “But I’m happy he’s my manager and will be open and will help me to get to that next level offensively and defensively. I’ll be able to pick his brain. He’s so open about it. He wants everybody to get better and I’ll try to help as much as possible.”
The two have their differences of course, the biggest being that Morel bats from the right side while Ventura batted left. And while asking Morel to reach Ventura’s power numbers is pushing it, the final month of last season suggests that Morel can deliver the long ball at the major-league level.
Where Morel might rank ahead of his manager is on the defensive end. In a SoxFest seminar with fans on Saturday, broadcaster Hawk Harrelson noted how Ventura struggled with the glove early in his big-league career before turning himself into one of the best in the game in that category.
Morel showed numerous instances of brilliance on defense last year, with some miscues mixed in. His biggest room for improvement on defense figures to come on throws, especially when he is rushed or there is traffic on the base paths.
While it seemed clear that Alexei Ramirez's growth at shortstop was aided by a former shortstop in Ozzie Guillen, it’s going to be hard to track Morel’s progress without giving an assist to Ventura.
Helping the bond between Morel and Ventura is the fact they hail from the same region of California. <!--Morel grew up in Bakersfield and went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Ventura grew up in nearby Santa Maria and still makes his home there.
“Obviously growing up there I had a chance to meet him and stuff like that but I don’t know if there is a better fit for this team than he is,” Morel said. “I’ll be able to learn from him and pick his brain a little bit. It will be nice.”
Ventura shouldn't get the credit for all of Morel’s future progress, though. The young third baseman made huge strides offensively in September when his approach at the plate completely changed.
Not only did he become more aggressive as evidenced by hitting eight of his 10 home runs over the final month, he also mixed in some patience. Morel had 15 walks in September after walking just seven times before the final month.
That month won’t completely erase a season when he batted a pedestrian .245 with a .287 on-base percentage, but the fact that he heads into 2012 with a little bit of momentum is reason for optimism.
“I was a little disappointed, more with just my mental approach to the game, trying not to mess up, make the team, be on the team and really got caught up in being that good defense third baseman and living with it,” Morel said. “[In September] I really just got selfish and aggressive, putting time in and developing an approach. So I will just carry that over the next year.”