Notes: Owens learning to play small ball
Quentin's left shoulder doing fine; Egbert battling soreness
TUCSON, Ariz. -- When Jerry Owens arrived at camp last week, he spoke of setting his 2008 stolen base target at a lofty total of 65 if the fleet-footed outfielder plays a full Major League season.
But this high level of confidence doesn't quite carry over yet to the topic of bunting when the potential White Sox leadoff man was asked about that specific skill. Despite leading the team with eight bunt hits over 93 games last season, Owens considers himself far removed from expert status.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say I'm a 3 or 4," said Owens of his bunting. "I have a long way to go and I can definitely improve.
"I want to be in a position where I can bunt the ball at any point. If I need a hit, if I'm struggling, if it's the eighth inning and we are down a run and I need to get on base, then I can lay a bunt down, and 80 percent of the time I'll be on base.
"That's the point I want to get to. This offseason I worked on it a lot, and this spring I've been working on it a lot."
Owens admitted how bunting never really has come naturally to him. It's something he has to do over and over again, building that muscle memory, while focusing on where his hands are and seeing the ball off the bat.
It's a skill Owens also believes he needs to control, in order to know he can bunt effectively against all styles of pitchers. It's also a good tool to have to keep a fast player such as Owens out of prolonged slumps.
"In the past, I got in a bad habit of trying to hit my way out of slumps," Owens said. "The game offers so many variables with the pitcher's arm angle and the pitch he throws.
"There are all sorts of things that go on. If I can focus on what I need to do, what I feel comfortable doing, then I can make the necessary adjustments throughout the game."
Gradual progress: Carlos Quentin has felt what he described as just normal soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder during the first time he's been swinging every day since last July. It's an encouraging sign for the 25-year-old outfielder, as Wednesday's Cactus League opener approaches.
"Everything is good, and [the left shoulder] has bounced back well," Quentin said. "A couple of days ago, it felt pretty sore, but it has felt great these last two days aside from a little soreness here and there.'
Quentin underwent surgery on Oct. 9 to repair a torn left labrum and rotator cuff. The procedure went well, but the rehab has gone even better, leaving Quentin anxious to test it in game situations.
"Yeah, it depends on the coaching staff and what the trainers think," Quentin said. "There still will be limitations on me, as far as running into the walls and sliding head first, all standard.
A passion for baserunning: Following one of Jeff Cox's intense and frenetic sessions on baserunning at a Kino Sports Complex back field Sunday morning, manager Ozzie Guillen handed out a piece of advice to his new third-base coach.
"Take a break," said Guillen with a smile.
"Breathe," Cox responded, resting for a moment in between sessions.
Cox's baserunning refresher course was one of six stations White Sox players rotated through at the end of practice Sunday, including situational hitting, batting practice, drills, sliding and agility. The 15-minute sessions were one part informative and one part entertaining, with Cox providing visual aids for subjects such as primary and secondary leads, diving back into first base and using your off-hand and putting yourself in the best position to take the extra base.
If Cox seems a bit animated about the topic, it's only because he believes strong baserunning truly can help change a team's fortunes.
"You can take all the fundamentals, the relays and cutoff plays, the first and third double steal, the offense and defense of it, the pickoff plays, the bunt plays, the pop fly priorities, but in my opinion, baserunning is the most important factor of all fundamentals," Cox said. "More games are won and lost on those basepaths, not reacting instantaneously to so many aspects of what you do on the basepaths.
"It's the one facet of our game that is most overlooked," Cox added.
Baserunning intangibles are just as important for the slower middle of the order, in Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski -- dubbed the Four Horsemen by Cox. By stressing these fundamentals, Cox hopes to be able to extend an inning by a runner such as Thome beating a force play at second through a better secondary lead and giving this powerful middle a chance to continue the rally behind him.
"Let's take pride in what our abilities give us and no more than that," Cox said.
Game time: Although it's merely an intrasquad contest, Guillen is looking forward to the spring change of pace come Monday afternoon.
"Spring Training is boring, especially for me because I have to go all over the place," said Guillen, who said he picks players to watch during workouts, focusing Sunday on Jose Contreras. "No matter if it's a B game or intrasquad game, we're going to go about our business.
"It's always good when you see the guys perform in the game. You've got a better view of what we have, a better view of how good they are. The games are always the best."
Around the horn: Guillen will bring a number of frontline players to next Sunday's split-squad contest against Arizona in Hermosillo, Mexico. Nick Masset gets the start, with Nick Swisher, Jerry Owens, Juan Uribe, Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Charlie Haeger and Jack Egbert making the trip. ... According to Guillen, Egbert is battling mild soreness in his right elbow. He was scratched from Wednesday's Cactus League opener but still is on track to pitch in Mexico. ... White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf celebrates his 72nd birthday on Monday.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.