Intense Quentin strives to find balance
When games begin, outfielder can turn from engaging to brooding
CHICAGO -- On the White Sox official 40-man roster, there is only one player listed next to the No. 20.
He is the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Carlos Quentin, who checks in at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds and features an explosiveness displayed when ball squarely meets bat, along with a razor-sharp batting eye. According to former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker, when Quentin is healthy and in sync at the plate, he becomes as dangerous of an offensive force as even the game's best performers -- such as Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera.
But within that one supremely-talented individual exists a couple of different Quentin personas.
Talk to him during Spring Training, even when Cactus League action has begun, and Quentin is outgoing and downright humorous. His quotes are thoughtful and deeper than the run-of-the-mill assessments concerning another season about to begin.
Once that season actually starts, those same quotes change for Quentin. Actually, they pretty much disappear.
Since joining the team in a 2007 trade with the D-backs for Chris Carter, the right fielder has belted 107 home runs with 320 RBIs and a .352 on-base percentage. His efforts certainly command attention in the press.
Media interaction just isn't part of Quentin's stringent daily routine for success. To his credit, that philosophy doesn't change -- whether results are good or bad.
So the 29-year-old's dry wit suddenly transforms into a sullen and, even unhappy, seriousness. It's unfair, but it's there. The prime goal for Quentin, though, is doing all he can to help the team succeed. Any depiction -- positive or negative -- that comes along with that preparation doesn't influence his everyday focus.
"Whether I'm misconstrued, or whether I'm not, it has never been too much of a concern for me," Quentin told MLB.com before the close of the 2011 season. "It's not about that I'm not happy or that I am happy. There are things on my mind that are taking precedence first and foremost -- whether it's my routine or my swing or just thinking about the game.
"If you ask me, 'Would I love to walk around with a smile?' Well, yes. That's something I'm trying my best to work on. I don't know if I'll ever get there. But on the inside, maybe it will be a little easier."
Quentin finished the 2011 season with a .254 average, 24 homers and 77 RBIs. He had only two at-bats after Aug. 20 due to a sprained A/C joint in his left shoulder, sustained during a diving catch against the American League champion Rangers.
During his AL Most Valuable Player-caliber 2008 campaign, when Quentin launched 36 homers and drove in 100 runs, he lost the final month -- and the apparent postseason honor -- after banging his fist on his bat in frustration after fouling off a hittable pitch and fracturing his right wrist in Cleveland. That action, like the injury on the diving grab, falls more under the bad-luck category.
Nonetheless, the manifestation and ensuing management of failure stood high on Quentin's agenda entering each of the last three seasons.
When approached in May at Angel Stadium and asked about channeling that unending disappointment from groundout to flyout, Quentin commended himself for noticeable improvement. His final September assessment left Quentin knowing more steps needed to be taken to find that balance -- partially through offseason work and partially through experience.
"Am I completely where I want to be? Not yet," Quentin said. "The beginning of the year started out really well, but I had some bumps in the road about midseason.
"I always have to remind myself [that] relapsing into some of the old patterns and habits is possible. ... But you have to identify it and move on. It's something I understand, where it's going to be a process. Hopefully, one day I can look back at it and see how far I've come."
The daily, on-the-field grind once consumed Quentin off the field. He used to have constant thoughts, bordering on obsessions -- about his swing, for example -- and never gave his body and mind a needed opportunity to rest.
"You tend to come to the field mentally tired, physically strained a little bit," Quentin said. "You can't get enough recovery.
"I've been able to break the pattern, and I would like to keep breaking that pattern. Focusing on the field is, knock on wood, it hasn't been an issue for me. It's about getting the maximum out of yourself, and being able to continuously deal with the adversity this game provides.
"Taking part of it home every night is just going to wear you out. That was the point I was at a couple of years back. Does it still happen? Yes. But I was fortunate this season, I did a lot better in that regard."
Relating to White Sox teammates has never been a problem for Quentin, who seems even looser in those non-competitive down times. This interview took place after he had been officially sidelined for the season, in between Quentin joking with rookie hurler Addison Reed and organizing his locker to return home.
His last year of arbitration before free agency puts Quentin in an interesting offseason situation. Dayan Viciedo's Major League arrival could make Quentin's immense talent an important commodity on the open market.
A sort of comfort level exists for Quentin in Chicago, where he would like to stay. Any new city or new group of media would have to get to know the intelligent and engaging Quentin behind the quiet and, almost broodingly, intense competitor, as he tries to find a meeting place for the two.
"I'm not one [who goes] looking for the cameras or the attention," Quentin said. "I've always seen that part as being more of a distraction, with no offense to [the media]. When I'm asked a question that's a decent question, I'm not afraid to give an answer."