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.

How the White Sox and Tim Anderson came to their creative contract extension

How the White Sox and Tim Anderson came to their creative contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Among the many complex elements involved in getting a deal done, timing appears to have been the most critical for Tim Anderson and the White Sox.

Even though Anderson has less than a year of service time, both sides felt it was imperative they complete a six-year pact during spring training that could pay the shortstop upward of $50.5 million.

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, neither the White Sox nor Anderson's representatives at Reynolds Sports Management had any interest in allowing talks to extend into the season for the player's sake. And when it comes to why now -- whether it was eliminating risk or assuming it, the years of control on the back end or the dollars and cents — it was clear to all parties that the present was the only logical time to finalize a deal that could keep Anderson in Chicago through 2024.

"We felt now was the right opportunity to get the length of control we were looking for and we were comfortable with," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "I think the fact that it is an aggressive move on our part is probably not a surprise given what you've seen us do with some of our other players, which took people by surprise. But again, we view him as a premium talent who's going to be an important part of what we're trying accomplish for the next several years."

To complete a deal like this, one that members of the White Sox front office often refer to as "win-win contracts," both sides must make significant concessions. Anderson's extension is the fifth long-term deal completed by the White Sox in four years, starting with Chris Sale's contract in March 2013.

The team benefits by locking up the first two seasons of Anderson's free agency at an affordable rate. The White Sox used that additional control to their advantage this offseason when they traded Sale and Adam Eaton for seven talented prospects.

But to gain those benefits, Hahn and Co. must be comfortable enough with the expected performance, the potential for injury and the person to assume the risk created by guaranteeing $25 million.

On the other side, Anderson's representatives must potentially concede the front end of free agency in order to gain security.

Even then, the deal isn't complete unless the player is satisfied.

"There's a lot of things that have to line up for a deal like this to work," said White Sox assistant GM Jeremy Haber.

When the two sides first made contact several weeks ago, Anderson's management team was skeptical.

The club's first offer was rejected.

Similar to the White Sox, Anderson's agent, Larry Reynolds, sees a star in the making. Not only does he possess the tools and work ethic necessary to become great, Anderson's reps believe he also has the drive necessary to make further progress. Given Anderson produced 2.8 Wins Above Replacement in his first season, Reynolds' team needed to be convinced to sacrifice valuable front-end years on the next contract.

Once the White Sox adjusted the proposed arbitration numbers, the likelihood of an extension increased.

When he has one-plus year of service time in 2018, Anderson will earn $1 million — exactly $50,000 shy of what Kris Bryant is making this season after he already won a Rookie of the Year award and a Most Valuable Player award. In 2019, Anderson's $1.4 million salary will be $400,000 more than Mike Trout — already a two-time AL MVP runner-up — earned with roughly the same amount of service time. The $4 million Anderson is set to take home in 2020 is $400,000 higher than Jackie Bradley is earning this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility and $1.275 million more than Lorenzo Cain earned in his in 2015.

Those figures as well as a $7.25 million payday in 2021 and $9.5 million in 2022 were enough to convince Anderson and his team to concede his first two years of free agency.

"This deal was a challenging one, particularly when you have a special talent like Tim's to consider," said Reynolds Sports Management COO Patrick Murphy. "The length of the contract and the club options were concerning, but as the negotiations progressed, Larry (Reynolds) and the group got more comfortable. In the end, what really mattered was the fact that Tim wanted to do the deal, so we pulled the trigger."

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To arrive at the point where they wanted to lock down Anderson, the White Sox had to feel comfortable assuming risk. If anything goes wrong, they'd be on the hook for half of the contract. According to Hahn and Haber, there was never any doubt about pushing forward. Hahn said the White Sox initially discussed the possibility of an extension a year ago.

The ease with which they decided to move on that idea only grew the more they knew Anderson, whom they selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Not only is Anderson athletic, the White Sox have found him to be a quick learner who’s motivated to prove his doubters wrong.

"One of the things we talked about before engaging was if there was anyone in the organization who felt that Tim got guaranteed money that it would change how he approached the game and how he prepared," Hahn said. "Everyone I had that conversation with immediately to a man said no. He's about trying to be great and trying to win championships. He's not doing this for the money. He's not going to change his work ethic or who he is in the clubhouse or the field just because he has guaranteed cash in his pocket now."

All it took was the time to hammer out the deal.

But with the team's April 3 opener nearing, both sides hoped to have an answer by Sunday. They didn't want Anderson, who said he was surprised the team wanted to extend him, to be worried about his status as the regular season approached.

Whereas the two parties spoke about once every four days at the start, Reynolds and Haber were in contact 2-3 times per day on Friday and Saturday as negotiations intensified. After it was finalized, Anderson said he could feel the weight of it all. The sides agreed to the deal late Saturday and Anderson took his physical on Monday.

While stressful at the time, Anderson is pleased to have security and a home for at least the next six seasons.

"It's life changing," Anderson said. "For me to go out and perform the way I did and for them to reward them the way I did, it's such a blessing. Especially for someone like me from where I come from. It's just really an honor for me to be able to do this.

"That speaks highly of them, for them to believe in me like that. Just from 115 days in the big leagues last year. I'm very thankful and forever be humble and just keep moving forward with this."

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He already carries the confidence of someone who throws 100 mph. But Zack Burdi felt even more secure entering camp after receiving sound advice from his older brother, who also happens to play pro ball.

Burdi — selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 draft — hasn't felt too overwhelmed over the past five weeks even though he's experiencing big league camp for the first time. A process-oriented pitcher, the White Sox prospect said he owes his comfort to the guidance of his brother, Minnesota Twins farmhand Nick Burdi. 

"Act like you belong," Burdi said of the advice. "Don't make it out to be something it isn't. It's still a game. You're still going out there and playing a game you've played for the last 19 years. That was the big thing."

If it weren't for a gaggle of talented, newly acquired prospects alongside him in camp, Burdi might have been the hot topic in camp this spring. He features a fastball that rates 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 60-slider and a 55-changeup, according to MLB.com. The arsenal has many of the belief Burdi could one day be a stalwart in the back of a major league bullpen. The Louisville-product is also very advanced compared with most 2016 draftees and was considered to be the most major league-ready player at the time of last June's draft.

But until the club made a series of moves Tuesday, Burdi, who has a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings this spring, was just one of a bevy of talented prospects in the White Sox clubhouse. Of the team's top seven prospects, five are right-handed pitchers. Burdi is the team's No. 7 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. 

Armed with his brother's advice, Burdi has focused on keeping his head low and his eyes and ears open this spring. He said one of the best parts about the advice that Nick Burdi — who also went to Louisville and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft — offered is that he had a sense of how the camp would be run. Though no two camps are alike, having a sense of what the day-to-day operation is like gave Burdi comfort. 

"Nick's someone I've looked to in countless situations in baseball or outside of it for advice," Zack Burdi said. "It has been nothing but good advice throughout it all. To come to camp and kind of have a little insight of how it's going to go, how it's going to be, was a huge personal advantage for me because I like to know how certain things are going to go. I don't like going in too blind."

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Burdi is in an enviable position as his first big league camp is coming to a close. He's the highest-rated prospect left after a series of moves Tuesday sent second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minor league camp. 

The White Sox head back to Chicago next Wednesday.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox merely want to give the Downers Grove-product a little more time to soak up the big league atmosphere. While its more likely he begins the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Burdi ranks high on the team's depth chart and could be in line for a late-innings role were the White Sox to trade a reliever. Either way, Burdi isn't worried about anything but his own performance and conduct. 

"I'm confident with where I'm at," Burdi said. "I'm just excited to see where the season's going to take me. If it's Triple-A then that's awesome. Going to go there and do my best to help the team. if it's the big leagues then it'll be the same thing: go up, do my best and keep learning day by day and just trust the process and keep growing."