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 pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”