Jose Quintana shrugs off trade rumors, awaits Opening Day nod

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The worst-kept secret in White Sox camp is that Jose Quintana will start Opening Day at newly named Guaranteed Rate Field.

As long as he’s still with the Sox, and it seems more certain by the day that he will be, Quintana is expected to face the Tigers on April 3.

“That would be amazing,’’ Quintana said Wednesday.

“Whatever day they want, I’m ready to go. I’m almost ready.’’

Colombia pitcher Jose Quintana throws during the third inning in a first-round game against the United States in the World Baseball Classic, Friday, March 10, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

As in ready to start the season thanks to early preparation for the World Baseball Classic. Quintana, pitching for Colombia, looked to be in midseason form when he was no-hitting Team USA for 5‰ innings.

Quintana was amped up.

“Yeah, especially when you have that uniform on for the first time, especially when you face the United States,’’ he said.

“It’s a different feeling when you play for your country.’’

It has been a different kind of offseason for Quintana, to be sure. First, Chris Sale was traded in December, a deal that handed the previously dubbed No. 2 starter the duty of staff ace. Then came the WBC and everything that entailed. Through it all, there were ongoing trade rumors that he would follow Sale out the door as part of a rebuild.

So far, though, general manager Rick Hahn hasn’t received an offer he views as doable. Quintana’s quality, consistency and contract (he’ll be paid $7 million this season and is under team control through 2020 at a maximum of $11.5 million) equate to almost through-the-roof value, so don’t expect him to be dealt until Hahn receives that kind of offer.

Quintana doesn’t want the trade rumors hovering over the Sox’ rebuilding plan to be a distraction, so on the first day of camp, he conveyed through the media-relations department that he would discuss it then, but no more after that.

Of course, it came up again Wednesday.

“I never pay attention to that,’’ he said. “I know there are rumors, but I keep my focus on spring training. That’s all I have control over, so I just do my work and let’s go.’’

So it’s not a distraction?

“No, I don’t pay attention to it,’’ he said. “I just play for my team.’’

As busy as Quintana was — getting ready for the WBC in Miami as well as hosting 15 family members who were there — that might actually be true. And one of the things teammates and coaches rave about is Quintana’s attention to his craft.

So maybe he’s really not all that bothered by it.

“Any pitcher will tell you, no matter who they’re facing, some of the biggest battles are [within] themselves,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “The batter in many instances is of no consequence. They know what they’re trying to do against a particular hitter, then they have to execute and hit their spots.

“He’s always been able to, even in his sidelines. It’s impeccable. He’s so focused when he’s working.’’

Sounds like someone who can handle Opening Day.

“It’s coming up soon,’’ Renteria said of making it official. “Give me a few more days, maybe a week. These guys kind of have an idea where we’re at. We’ll share it then, then let you guys have it.’’

“He’s our No. 1 starter, and he’s going to show it again this year,’’ said right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched for Mexico. “He’s a hard worker and a horse.’’

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