Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: Robin ready to rock

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Sox Drawer: Robin ready to rock

By now youve likely heard the criticisms of Robin Ventura managing the Chicago White Sox. Hes heard them too. Theyre tough to ignore.

One, hes never managed. Two, hes never even coached.

Well, thats not entirely true. Two years ago, Ventura actually was a coach -- at the White Sox Fantasy Baseball Camp in Glendale, Ariz.

People say that Ventura doesnt have a sharp tongue like Ozzie Guillen? Heres what Robin said when I asked him about his rag-tag team of seniors who paid thousands of dollars to play in the camp, but couldnt win a game.

We were terrible," he said. "We were not just no good. We were terrible.

So if Ventura couldnt inspire a collection of athletically challenged baseball players between the ages of 40 and 70, what makes him think he can suddenly lead a real major league team, and into the playoffs no less?

Well for one, the fantasy campers couldnt catch. They couldnt catch or even hit, so I was at a disadvantage from the start, Ventura said laughing. Now I feel like I have a foot in the right direction with the squad that we have here.

But lets not kid ourselves. That foot has an extremely large shoe to fill.

Hes taking over for Guillen, who might be long gone in Miami, but his voice is still echoing at U.S. Cellular Field. His words were so memorable, theyre permanently embedded in the rafters.

Guillen also won a World Series title for the White Sox, the only manager alive who can say that.

But while they are both vastly different on the surface, Ventura and Guillen are almost twins when it comes to their approaches to the game. Theyre cut from the same cloth, brought up in a White Sox organization that stressed the importance of playing the game one way -- the right way.

There are parts of baseball that Ozzie and I both had instilled in us early in our careers that are very similar in the way we do things here, Ventura said in an interview following his Tuesday press conference. We do appreciate guys who play hard and we expect that. Theres no other way around it.

Ventura might have the look of a laid-back surfer who would prefer to hang 10 than to play nine, but inside that belly of his is a competitive fire that burns, and has been known to boil. Just ask some of his former teammates, like Frank Thomas, who not only heard but felt the wrath of Ventura when he believed they werent giving 100 percent of themselves to the team.

I took it personally when guys didnt come out and do what they were supposed to or back a teammate or play hard as theyre supposed to, Ventura said. And thats something that our team is going to understand about me. Im going to come every day with the same attitude, the same personality. Whats expected is not going to be a shock.

Speaking to reporters last week, Williams said that he wants Ventura to have his own voice, and to challenge the Sox GM whenever he feels necessary.

One day into the job, does Ventura have the comfort level to stand up to his boss when conflict arrives?

Youre going to have disagreements, Ventura said. It may not be like the same as the ones he had before with Guillen. But I have beliefs just like anybody else. Our staff is going to have beliefs. And thats going to be something that if I dont agree with something hes doing, Im going to tell him that. It doesnt mean Im going to scream and yell, but hes going to understand that I dont agree with whats going on.

The Detroit Tigers beat the White Sox by 16 games to win the Central Division. But that gap is nothing compared to the difference in experience between the two skippers. Jim Leyland has managed 1,716 games in his career; Ventura 0.

So when the fans and media criticize Ventura as being a managing neophyte whos in over his head, he understands where theyre coming from.

I get it. I totally get it, Ventura said about his lack of coaching experience. But just because they say it, doesnt mean its true.

Just ask anyone who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 and 2004, Venturas last two seasons as a player in the big leagues. His teammates had a special nickname for him.

What was it?

It was ploach.

Which meant?

Player-coach, Ventura said modestly. I dont know if it was about my age. I was at the end of my career. I was the oldest guy on the team, but it stuck early in spring training and I had it for the whole year.

At the time, Ventura might not have seen himself as a manager, but everyone else did.

Of all the players I played with, he would be my No. 1 choice to manage a team, tweeted former Dodger teammate Shawn Green soon after Ventura was hired.

As for the perception that Ventura had to be talked into the job? First, that didnt happen and second, who in their right mind would sign up to be the White Sox new manager with all the pressure of replacing Guillen, dealing with the media pressure and taking over a struggling team if they werent 100 percent certain that they wanted the job, and felt deep down that they could succeed?

It wasnt like, Hey lets just take a shot at it, because no organization is going to go into a season and waste one full year on a guy who says, Well, lets see how it goes, said Ventura. Thats not how Im going into this. Im going to work hard until I get to spring training having everything I need to have ready to go.

For the last 20 years, it seems like wherever Ventura goes hes reminded of the infamous night when he charged the mound against Nolan Ryan and received a round of noogies to the head from the Hall of Fame pitcher. Coincidentally, Ventura will make his managerial debut next season in Texas, where Ryan is now the teams president.

Its going to be great, Ventura said, rolling his eyes. I think there might have been 500,000 people in the stadium when that happened because everyone says they were at the game.

Among those in attendance was a teenage ballplayer dreaming of the big leagues.

Paul Konerko was actually at that game, Ventura said.

How about that little nugget?

Konerko was with a traveling baseball team that got to meet the White Sox third baseman before the game.

What did Ventura talk to them about?

Sportsmanship.

I guess you never know where life will take you. Ventura knows that ... from experience.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton.

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

The White Sox are fairly encouraged about Reynaldo Lopez’s progress and hopeful he returns soon to the mound.

Manager Rick Renteria said before Monday’s doubleheader that Lopez, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained back, said he has increasingly felt better. Lopez went on the DL on Saturday, two days after he made his second start since being promoted to the majors. The right-hander played catch in the outfield on Monday. Renteria also noted that Yoan Moncada would play in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader but he would sit out the second contest to rest his shin splints.

“He’s doing very, very well,” Renteria said of Lopez. “I ask him every day. (Sunday) night before we got off (the plane) he said he’s feeling much, much better. Now it’s a matter of where he’s at, and what we start doing with him activity wise before we he gets back in the rotation.

“This is a temporary thing.”

Similar to Moncada in July, Lopez is the first heralded prospect on the pitching side to appear in the majors. He had a strong debut against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 11, allowing two earned runs and striking out six in six innings. Lopez struggled in his second start, allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against Texas before he exited. He struck out six and walked four batters before complaining of soreness on his side.

“There’s nothing that’s going to hold this young man back,” Renteria said. “The disappointment is more that he can’t get back out there every five days right, not in terms of his performance. He’s done pretty well. It’s just that he can’t be out there right now. Once he’s healed up he’s going to be fine and be out there every five days.”

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

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USA TODAY

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

Put the shift on against Nicky Delmonico and he’s going to drop down a bunt to beat you.

The White Sox rookie has tried his solution for shift-happy defenses already three times this season and it’s worked in each instance.

And while its undoubtedly the long ball -- he’s hit five home runs -- that has caught everyone’s attention during the White Sox rookie’s unbelievable start, don’t overlook the little things, especially Delmonico’s ability to bunt for a hit and the impact it’s had on opposing defenses.

Whenever opponents try to employ a shift, and they’ve done it more often this season, Delmonico has shown no fear in trying to beat them with a bunt down the third-base line.

He bunted for a single in Sunday’s win when he reached base three times to bring his on-base percentage to .451 through 71 plate appearances. There’s no question that forcing defenses to play him straight up is partly responsible for Delmonico reaching base safely in 15 of 17 games to start his major league career.

“It opens up a hole,” Delmonico said. “There’s been a lot of times in Charlotte where you hit a hard ground ball through the four hole and think it’s a hit, but then there’s a guy deep in right field. You want those (to be hits). Any time you can take advantage of bunting and show you can bunt they’ll move out of the shift.”

Take a look at Delmonico’s spray chart and it’ll tell you he’s pull-happy. He’s pulled 47.9 percent of all balls put in play since reaching the majors, according to Fangraphs.com. Were he to be qualified for a batting title, Delmonico would currently be 15th in pull percentage in baseball, easily within range of leader Salvador Perez’s 54.6 percent.

Either way, Delmonico’s spray chart is the type that often leads defenses to load up three gloves on the right side of the infield no matter the count (teams tend to shift to a hitter’s pull side most often with two strikes).

But Delmonico has made them think twice --- at least early in the count.

“Any time I see them all over that’s when it’s the best time to lay one down,” Delmonico said. “You’ve just got to get it past the pitcher and fair.”

You also have to catch the attention of advance scouts. Based on the way he’s been defended so far, hitting coach Todd Steverson thinks opponents have taken notice of Delmonico’s skills.

“It’s got to be in their notes,” Steverson said. “It’s got to be in their data: “This guy will bunt.” Even just the words “he will bunt” keeps somebody close for a minute before they move to another spot. If you have none, then they don’t have to do nothing.

“They want to play him in the full shift. That’s what they did to him from the get-go. He dropped two bunts down on them and said ‘Ok.’ ”

Delmonico said he’s seen an increased number of shifts since reached Triple-A two years ago.

“But it was all different kinds of shifts,” Delmonico said. “Very rarely I would see them all over until two strikes.”

Delmonico works on bunting the same as anyone else. There’s the round he takes each day at the start of batting practice each day. And every few weeks or so, Charlotte brought out the pitching machine.

But what may make him standout are his confidence and conviction. While Delmonico realizes he may be taking the potential for extra bases out of his hands for one at-bat, he’s knows he’s still giving himself a chance to jumpstart a rally and he’s creating a world of opportunities for the rest of his trips to the plate.

“I feel like they’re pretty good,” Delmonico said. “I’ve worked a lot on it the last two years because I know eventually they will shift and to get that hole open you’ve got to prove to them that you will bunt.

“Overall it helps you out and two, it gives you a chance to get on base and get going. That’s the biggest thing for me.”