Sox Drawer: The Ventura decision

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Sox Drawer: The Ventura decision

VIDEO: Ventura ready for the job

For the last week, there were rumblings coming out of U.S. Cellular Field that the name of the new White Sox manager was going to surprise everyone.

Who could this mystery person be?

Carlton Fisk? Tony Pena? Bill Melton?? Hawk Harrelson???

The White Sox kept their decision an ancient Chinese secret. Nobody had a clue.

But then came the announcement late Thursday afternoon: the next skipper of the Chicago White Sox is Robin Ventura.

Sorry to disappoint those in the front office, we werent surprised at all. Shocked, stunned and completely stupefied would probably be more accurate. Absolutely nobody saw this coming.

But Kenny Williams did. Years ago.

While Ventura played third base for the White Sox in the mid-90s, Williams was working for the team in player development. He says that during the five seasons before he became general manager he was actually interviewing Ventura all along.

He just didnt know it, Williams said.

When it came time for him to assemble a list of candidates to replace Ozzie Guillen, Williams says that rumored front-runners (and former White Sox players) Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. were a part of the discussions.

Let me assure you, when we went down the list we looked at all of the guys, all the names that you've heard about and read about, we've looked at all of them, Williams said Thursday on Chicago Tribune Live.

But through it all, Venturas name kept popping off the page.

During a recent meeting with Jerry Reinsdorf, Williams brought up Venturas name as a possibility. At first, the Chairman smiled and said, interesting. Ventura had never managed before, and had just recently joined the White Sox front office in June as a special assistant to Buddy Bell, the teams director of player development.

He seemed like a long-shot, a wild card, just like another guy the team hired to manage the team in 2004: Ozzie Guillen.

After thinking it over that night, Reinsdorf told Williams the next day that he agreed with his decision about Ventura saying, I now know exactly why you brought his name to the forefront.

From there, the wheels went in motion. Ventura was their guy.

So what is it about Ventura that makes him the right fit, not only as White Sox manager, but as a manager period?

This isn't your average bird, Williams said. This guy comes with confidence, but if you ever had one conversation with him you understand that there's a certain humility, a certain regular guy, dry sense of humor. But at the same time he's got some toughness behind it, and will get on you in a way that doesn't demoralize you, in a way that doesn't sound so critical that you can't perform.

"He's a guy that will come in and have a positive affect on the young guys trying to establish themselves in the major leagues, while at the same time some of our veteran guys who are trying to rediscover themselves," Williams went on to say. "He's been there.

If Ventura never seemed to have that burning desire to become a big league manager, should that be held against him?

I say no, just as long as he still has the same desire to win like he did as a player. This being the team that drafted him and played him in 1,254 games during his White Sox career, my guess is that Ventura will do everything in his power not to let Reinsdorf and Williams down.

Im not one to back away, Ventura said when asked about his decision to become manager. The passion was there to do it, and Im honored to have the opportunity to do it. The White Sox care about me and my family. That was big in my decision. I realize that I havent managed, but this is the organization that is going to give me the support to do the job.

Being a first-time manager, who Ventura picks as his bench coach might be the next most important hire. Ventura has found a candidate, someone who is already a bench coach on a major league team. The White Sox are expected to ask the candidates team for permission to contact him on Friday.

As for his hitting coach, White Sox legend Frank Thomas told Comcast SportsNet Ill definitely listen if the Sox called. Williams revealed on Chicago Tribune Live that the Big Hurts name has already been brought up in conversations.

I have talked about that with Robin and because we've had so much growth within our system and we got so many young players as well as guys trying to rebound, we are probably going to stay within the organization, Williams said. We've still got to have some conversations on it and whether or not Frank is spoken to about or not, that'll be Robin's choice at the time. But I'm thinking initially, because we have history with some of our young players that have now come through and have performed well, we'll probably stick with that. But Frank will undoubtedly be welcomed to add any advice he has and he'll be part of the family because he is who he is and he's got a lot to offer.

In case Ventura doesnt succeed as manager, believe it or not, his replacement might already be lurking inside the White Sox clubhouse. Just like Ventura had no clue he was on Williams radar in the 1990s, this player probably doesnt realize it either.

As I'd freely admit right now, Paul Konerko can be a major league manager just because I've had 10 years worth of conversations with Paul Konerko, Williams said. And as a result, I've come to the conclusion that this guy certainly has the necessary stuff. He's a little busy right now, you know, becoming an MVP. But one day he too will hopefully be considered if he wants to do it along the same line. This might be out of left field or a surprise, but to people who are within the organization, not so much.

Cant say Im surprised. After the Ventura announcement, very little will.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.

The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Philip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He was dominant,” shortstop Tim Anderson said, providing an accurate if brief summation of the day’s proceedings.

Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.

Of course, whenever a performance nears no-hitter territory, players know it and stay away from the pitcher in the dugout, afraid of jinxing things. And the White Sox weren’t immune to that baseball tradition on Sunday.

“It was getting quiet,” Gonzalez said. “I was just trying to do my thing. Just go out there and make pitches, let them make the plays and that’s how things went.”

The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.

Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.

Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.

“I started off really good. I was struggling for a couple outings, and all you can do is keep working hard and things are going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you work hard in between your starts you have a pretty good chance of getting back on track and that’s how I felt today.”

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That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.

Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.

Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.

“As an offense, we’re trying to give that (big cushion) every night. That’d be nice,” Davidson said. “And it really relaxes them. And you can see what happens when they’ve got a lead and you let them do their thing.”

The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.

“I'm very happy with it, but again I'm not surprised by it, simply because I think they come out every single day to try to play good baseball and do what they need to help each other out and win ballgames,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It's just their character, the way they're put together. They keep battling.”

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.