Ventura highway about to open

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Ventura highway about to open

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Everyones gotta start somewhere.

Thats how Chris Sale explained the debut of his new manager Robin Ventura, who arrived at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday about to embark on quite the unexpected journey, hired to manage the White Sox despite not managing or even coaching in any sport at any level.

Truth be told, Ventura actually does have some coaching experience on his resume.
He once coached his daughters basketball team in California. Oh, and there was the time he led a ragtag group of aging amateurs at the White Sox fantasy baseball camp at this exact same facility two years ago.

How bad were they?

We stunk, Ventura said.

But when Kenny Williams shocked everybody by hiring the former White Sox third baseman to replace Ozzie Guillen this off-season, Williams didnt care that Ventura had coached as many professional games as just about everybody reading this sentence.

Why?

Because Ventura is not like everybody.

Its the reason he had a 58-game hitting streak for Oklahoma State in 1987. It had never happened in Division I baseball before. It hasnt happened since.

Its why he charged the mound in 1993 against 46-year-old and future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who proceeded to pound Ventura with several noogies to the head.
Probably not a smart move, but it shows the quiet, inner rage that can boil in his stomach. He might not show it, but its there. Expect to see it.

And its also why at the end of his playing career with the Dodgers, Venturas teammates gave him a nickname that foreshadowed his baseball future.

What was it?

Ploach.

Short for player-coach.

But while Ventura held that title quietly behind the scenes with no one watching, its a much different situation now. Hes now been thrust to the front of the stage with Chicagos blinding media spotlight directed right at him.

Few can effectively handle it. Ventura, like Ozzie Guillen before him, learned to play the game while living in it.

Not having Guillen around for the first time since 2003 will be an adjustment. Walking into the Sox clubhouse on Wednesday, something didnt seem right. I couldnt figure it out. Then I realized there wasnt a single profanity-laced tirade by a certain Venezuelan manager.

The silence was deafening.

Certainly from that standpoint, Ventura walks into this situation with some pretty large shoes to fill. Hes also taking over for the only manager alive who won a World Series title in Chicago.

I dont look at it necessarily as Im replacing him, Ventura said. I can only look at it as Im just happy to be in this position with the White Sox.

In a season that will feature many firsts, Wednesday was Venturas first spring training
press conference. The first-time manager gave us a glimpse at how he will act in his new job, and what he will expect from his players.

I do have things I believe in as far as the way they play, Ventura said.

Which will have to be a 180-degree shift from last year when the Sox struggled out of the gate and finished a disappointing 79-83. Ventura can help steer the season in the right direction, but he wont be the only person with his hands on the wheel.

Hopefully guys can play better. Thats obviously something from last year," Ventura said. "Thats just the situation were in, and nobody is going to let them up from that until you have an extended period of playing well and guys playing well. Thats just the facts. Thats just the way it is. We have a long way to go to kind of prove that wrong.

Ventura cant swing the bat for Adam Dunn, Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham. Thats not his job. But helping them get to the right place mentally to succeed? That is. Ventura knows it all begins here at spring training.

I think theres always a tone you open up with, the Sox manager said. I dont think you can force it on them. Your leadership and your club is going to kind of set that tone. Its about being prepared to win games, and thats really the focus of how were going to do things, and do it right. And thats it. Its pretty simple.

With the Dodgers he might have been the unofficial player-coach. But will he be a players coach?

Asked about running the club like a dictatorship, Ventura quipped, Absolutely. My way or the highway.

Tomorrow the journey begins.

White Sox like short- and long-term payoff from Tim Anderson's battle with Jake Arrieta

White Sox like short- and long-term payoff from Tim Anderson's battle with Jake Arrieta

What arguably was the best at-bat of Tim Anderson’s nascent major league career ended with a strikeout. 

Anderson led off the sixth inning of the White Sox 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday with a 10-pitch at-bat against reigning National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. He fouled off four consecutive pitches, three of which came on a 3-2 count, before taking a sinker on the black for strike three. 

What happened after Anderson’s at-bat was where the payoff from it came: Melky Cabrera drew a walk and Jose Abreu lined a single to right. After Justin Morneau struck out looking on a high curveball — the pitch was out of the strike zone, according to BrooksBaseball.net — Todd Frazier launched a three-run home run.

 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“I kind of felt like that got us some momentum, even though I did strike out,” Anderson said.” It kind of got him (Arrieta) flustered a little bit, got him off rhythm and we were able to capitalize on that.”

The 23-year-old Anderson hasn’t made a living on patient, lengthy at-bats since being promoted to the majors in early June. Anderson entered Tuesday’s Crosstown date with the Cubs seeing an average of 3.56 pitches per plate appearance, ranking 278th out of 310 players with at least 150 plate appearances this season (former White Sox and current Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski is last with 3.09 P/PA, while the Cleveland Indians’ Mike Napoli leads the majors with 4.59 P/PA). 

Anderson also has the lowest walk rate (1.2 percent) of any player with 150 plate appearances, which would explain why he only has a .281 on-base percentage despite hitting a relatively healthy .273. 

It’s relatively rare for a player to have a walk rate as low as Anderson’s and have an above-average season at the plate. The lowest walk rates for players with a wRC+ over 100 (100 being average) over the last three years: Adam Jones (3.6 percent walk rate, 119 wRC+ in 2013), Dee Gordon (3.8 percent walk rate, 113 wRC+ in 2014) and Jones (2.8 percent walk rate, 116 wRC+ in 2015).

[RELATED: White Sox VP Kenny Williams: Hahn, Ventura handled Sale situation in 'excellent fashion']

Eventually, Anderson will have to become more patient at the plate to maximize on his outstanding contact skills. The battle he had with Arrieta showed he can fight off plenty of pitches from one of baseball’s best hurlers, which manager Robin Ventura saw as a positive long-term sign. 

It didn’t hurt things in in the short-term view of the sixth inning Monday, either. 

“He’s getting a taste of some good pitchers,” Ventura said. “I think that’s part of his process going through the league, seeing these guys. He doesn’t back down, he’s a very confident kid. You learn something as well as be productive. You like to see a kid fight like that at the plate.”

White Sox VP Kenny Williams: Hahn, Ventura handled Sale situation in 'excellent fashion'

White Sox VP Kenny Williams: Hahn, Ventura handled Sale situation in 'excellent fashion'

Kenny Williams doesn’t want the fallout from Chris Sale’s latest incident to drag out any longer.

The White Sox executive vice president said Tuesday he’d like to move on and thought going into detail on Sale’s comments about Robin Ventura or any other aspect of the incident that led to the pitcher’s suspension would be counterproductive.

Sale is in the third day of a five-game suspension imposed by the club for insubordination and destruction of team property after he destroyed the throwback jerseys they were set to wear on Saturday and was sent home early. On Monday, Sale told MLB.com that Ventura needed to stand up for his players when they objected to the 1976 unis.

“The one thing I can say is the way that Rick and Robin I think handled the situation, it was a difficult situation, certainly a unique situation, but one in which I think they handled in an excellent fashion,” said Williams, who was at an out-of-town event Saturday.

Sale defended his decision to destroy the uniforms, an act the Associated Press reported cost him $12,700 in fines as well as the suspension. Some players objected to last year’s throwback uniforms and the team altered them to make them more comfortable.

But Sale made it clear in spring training and again on Friday he didn’t wear them. He said wearing the throwbacks could hinder performance and thought it was a promotional stunt where the club put business in front of winning. Sale also disagreed with how Ventura, who sent him home early and scratched him from making a start, handled the situation.

[RELATED: Suspended Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs]

Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don't feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix -- it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it.”

Ventura didn’t directly address Sale’s comments on Tuesday in an effort to move on from the incident. Asked if he believed he and Sale can co-exist, Ventura said yes. He also said he didn’t think he would have handled the situation any different.

Sale previously ripped Williams endlessly in a 14-minute media session in March after Adam LaRoche abruptly retired over a dispute with management about how often his son Drake could be around the team. The White Sox declined to suspend Sale at that point, but didn’t hesitate to do so on Sunday. Hahn said Sale’s actions warranted the punishment.

Williams was asked if the organization would try to keep Sale on a tighter leash in the future. But rather than launch into a diatribe of his own, Williams suggested its better for all parties if they work through the scenario internally than have it play out in the media.

“You know me and I’m never one to shy away from a direct question,” Williams said. “But I’m more interested in moving on. Any further comment beyond what I said is counterproductive to all of that. At one point in my career, you probably would have gotten me to comment in a very different way.”

White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon ‘back on track’ after rehab start Monday

White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon ‘back on track’ after rehab start Monday

Carlos Rodon threw 58 pitches in a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte on Monday and is optimistic he’ll return to the White Sox starting rotation soon. 

The 23-year-old left-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 9 (retroactive to July 6) with a sprained left wrist, a bizarre injury he suffered when he slipped coming out of the White Sox dugout at U.S. Cellular Field before a game July 8 against the Atlanta Braves. He threw 3 2/3 innings yesterday in Louisville against the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks, three strikeouts and one home run.

More important than the results to Rodon, though, was how he felt in his first game in nearly three weeks. 

“I felt good,” Rodon said. “Back on track.”

The plan for Rodon is to throw again with the White Sox before returning to the team’s rotation, though. Manager Robin Ventura didn’t set a timetable but said the 2014 No. 3 overall pick is “headed in the right direction.”

[MORE: Suspended Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs]

The N.C. State product hit the disabled list earlier this month with a 4.50 ERA, 4.42 FIP and 91 strikeouts, 32 walks and 15 home runs over 92 innings. Once he returns, he’ll hope to hit the reset button on what’s been an up-and-down second year in the major leagues. 

Rodon said his goal was to throw 60 pitches on Monday, so he was only two pitches off from that mark. And when he returned to U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday, he remained encouraged with his recovery process. 

“Everything responded well,” Rodon said. “Just looking forward to this next start here.”