Out of public eye, Ventura is essence of streaking Sox

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Out of public eye, Ventura is essence of streaking Sox

Its a couple hours before game time on Sunday, and Robin Venturas head is in a fog. The flu bug that has been floating around the White Sox clubhouse since last Friday has reached the manager. But hell battle through it, just like Nate Jones did the day before. The rookie reliever showed up Saturday at the ballpark, threw up, and then threw 99 miles per hour on the radar gun in two scoreless inning of relief.

Go back and watch the tape. Jones stumbled around the mound in a daze, giving whatever he had in the tank for those few seconds when he actually had to pitch. The rest of the time his face was a shade of green and purple. At one point he looked at veteran catcher AJ Pierzynski and with all his might said, Just give me the ball.

And that is the essence of this White Sox team of 2012.

Give them the ball.

Give them a glove.

And then: Give em hell.

Thats how Ventura was as a player. Its also how he manages. Now were seeing it on the field.

The White Sox have won 14 of their last 16 games. Theyre in first place in the American League Central by 2 12 games. They have a better record than the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers -- all preseason favorites to make the playoffs.

You hear that rumbling in the distance? Its the White Sox. Last year, they barely made a peep.

Despite all the doubts and criticisms coming into this season, the White Sox have quickly formed into a squad of fighters who have followed the lead of their rookie manager.

Theyre playing well. Theyre confident, Ventura said. Thats what you want. You want guys coming ready to play. They have the feeling theyre going to win every game.

As the manager who has set the tone in the clubhouse from the beginning, you could say that Ventura is the man responsible for that winning atmosphere. Just dont tell that to the humble Robin, because hell never admit it.

I don't want to go there, he said. It's everyone, everyday coming with the same attitude. These guys are the ones who play. You can do the same things Im doing every day, but if you have guys who don't have the ability and arent capable of doing it, it doesnt matter. It's really about how these guys are doing and coming every day to compete. That's the thing Im happiest about.

In his dealings with the media, Ventura can be about as exciting as cabbage. During his press conferences, he comes across like a bored high school student sitting in the back of math class continually being pestered by the teacher.

Hes a man whose personality has different shades. Publicly, he prefers to give the media nothing but gray. Privately, there are more colors in his spectrum.

My personality with the team is a lot different than what people get to see, Ventura admitted.

In this way, he is the exact opposite of Ozzie Guillen, who didnt hesitate in speaking openly and honestly about anything, and to anyone: media, fans, players, coaches, pets, insects.

Nothing was off topic. He was a reporters dream.

I suggested to Robin that he reveal more of himself and whats going on behind closed doors when the microphones are on. He smiled. Then politely shook his head no.

For me, I've always felt it's better to have that in the clubhouse. You have a few tricks up your sleeve for guys in different situations. That's just stuff I use with these guys in different situations whether it's a winning streak or losing streak. To be able to talk to guys and get through stuff and get them refocused and let them laugh in a tough situation. Some things have to be held back.

I told Ventura that I asked some players to describe him as a manager.

Do you want to hear what they said?

Not really.

They said some bad things about you. (I was joking).

Well, now I need names, he said sarcastically. Just give me their jersey numbers.

Heres what they said:

Robins like a player.
He doesnt look for the spotlight.
Hes the same in a winning streak as a losing streak.
Hed be a great manager for any ballclub.

Not being one for compliments, when I read this to Ventura he looked like I just ran my nails down a chalkboard.

For me, this is where I want to manage. This feels right to me, he said, trying desperately to get control back of the conversation. It's about these guys. Nothing happens without them.

Where would the White Sox be without Ventura?

Something tells me not here. Not in first place and feeling theyre going to win every game like Robin said.

It was looking like a long, boring summer in Chicago.

Maybe not anymore.

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

The Crosstown Classic continues on Wednesday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (1-0, 17.18) vs. Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

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'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

It was the sort of performance that earned him the nickname “Big Game” earlier in his career.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense did enough for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields lowered his earned-run average over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. The White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs, and in doing so retained the Crosstown Cup. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries with a perfect ninth.

“This is the guy we were thinking of when we got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He came up big tonight, especially the way the bullpen is. I know he takes a lot of pride in that, he really does, of going out there and going deep into games. This is another one that we needed and he came through for us.”

An individual turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its apex on Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction to the White Sox, Shields has rediscovered some of the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. White Sox relievers recorded only four outs and threw 19 pitches at time they needed it most. A number of close games and Chris Sale’s skipped start Saturday have White Sox relievers working in shifts to rest.

Shields provided that breather.

“He was a bulldog today, man,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He came out there and did what he had to do, saved the bullpen a little bit. You saw him out there. He was yelling at everybody, getting everybody fired up. That’s all you can ask for from him.”

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All Shields could request of his teammates is to spare a few runs. They produced three for a pitcher who entered the game ranked 130th among 138 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs-per game support average.

Jose Abreu made it 1-0 in the first with an RBI single to score Adam Eaton, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Kyle Hendricks. Tyler Saladino also forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk, the third straight free pass issued by reliever Travis Wood.

Shields took advantage of the limited support and put himself in better position to pitch deep into the game with quick innings in the fourth and fifth. At 56 pitches after three, Shields needed only five to retire the side in the fourth and nine more in the fifth.

He had more than enough to get out of trouble in the sixth inning. Having retired 12 of 13 into the sixth, including the first two outs, Shields walked Addison Russell and Jason Heyward singled. But Shields -- who also got Dexter Fowler to pop out on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning -- retired the dangerous Javy Baez on a foul ball down the left-field line to keep the White Sox ahead by two.

“They worked the count in the second inning,” Shields said. “I had a few walks there. We had La Stella out, but he had catcher’s interference. I probably threw a little extra that inning, and I had to get myself back in the game as far as pitch count, and I ended up doing that the very next inning.”

The ability to make big pitches and pitch deep into games stems from the comfort Ventura thinks Shields has rediscovered on the mound. The stretch of four starts, including his last with the Padres, in which he allowed 31 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings and was singled out by his former team’s owner for poor performance, couldn’t have done Shields any favors. But little by little, Shields has worked his way back.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino said the renewed confidence is easy to see when Shields is on the mound. Saladino said Shields will engage his infielders and even position them at times, knowing and trusting where they are.

“He starts to feel that confidence that he’s making his pitches, he’s getting his outs, he’s in charge,” Saladino said. “And when you’re behind him watching all that going on, and he’s giving you feed back when you come back in, you just know that he’s locked in. So you just go with it, the flow of him and everything.”