Ventura excited about youth movement but appreciates his veterans

Ventura excited about youth movement but appreciates his veterans
December 16, 2013, 8:45 am
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The roster isn’t set by any means but were it to have a similar shape in two months manager Robin Ventura would probably like how its formulated.

Since the end of July the White Sox have added three position players in Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton who are 26 or younger and expected to play large roles next season.

After the White Sox lost 99 games in 2013, Ventura knew the franchise’s direction would shift course and he sounds enthusiastic about the youth infusion. But he also appreciates the balance his roster would have were 30-somethings Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, Jeff Keppinger and Paul Konerko to be included when the team arrives in Glendale, Ariz. in mid-February.

“You go through a season like you did last year, there are changes,” Ventura said last week in Florida. “When you make changes you would, for the most part, like to have a lot of young guys that are good and you have control over for a lot of years.  I think that would be the plan for a lot of people.  However, you do want guys that are established and know what you're going to get.  So the combination is really perfect. I don't think going all young is going to be the ideal situation.”

[PIERZYNSKI: Konerko deserves one more season]

All youth can lead to a long season for a manager. A lack of experience similar to the Houston Astros, whose average non-position player was 25.8 years old in 2013, can lose to 111 losses in a heartbeat.

Last season the average age of the players in the White Sox opening day lineup was 30.22 years. That figure slipped by the end of the season after Alex Rios was traded and Keppinger began to see less playing time with Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia taking over.

But the White Sox have managed to get even younger this season.

With the additions of Eaton, who will be 25, Avisail Garcia (22), Abreu (27), the White Sox would have an average opening day age of 27.22 assuming Tyler Flowers (28) and Dayan Viciedo (25) get the start.

With less service time among his projected core players, Ventura appreciates having seasoned veterans in the mix. Even though Konerko will be in a reduced role, Ventura believes he can provide value for younger players in any number of ways, including work ethic.

“He’s a presence in the clubhouse and a lot of respect how he goes about his business and what he’s meant,” Ventura said. “It’s part of having a guy like Paul. It’s a somewhat reduced role, but he can be just as productive throughout our clubhouse not playing as much.”

[MORE: Sox select catcher Nieto in Rule 5 draft]

As for the younger guys, don’t look for the White Sox to throw out the kind of projections because there’s no telling how long it might take Abreu to assimilate to a new culture or what effect switching leagues might have on Eaton. Ventura’s just curious to see what he has.

“You are going to give them an opportunity to see what they can do,” Ventura said. “Pretty much everything is on the table for guys to make an impact and see what they can do. … It's exciting seeing what they can do giving them a full season.  We'll be different, just because they're added for a full season, get them in Spring Training and go from there. Regardless of what happens from here on out, we are different moving into 2014.”