February 2012

Pain, Suffering and General Soreness

February 29, 2012

Day 2 of full squad camp ended around 1:30 p.m. in Glendale and several veterans were already anticipating the pain, soreness and suffering that typical arrives in the first week of spring training.  White Sox position players won’t have too long to wait for game action, however, as the White Sox will split up to play at intrasquad game Saturday late morning.  More details will come tomorrow or Friday.

Manager Robin Ventura again praised left-handed pitcher Chris Sale following the workout.

“He has great stuff,” Ventura said.  “It’s not a comfortable at-bat for guys going in there left-handed.  His offspeed pitch is something else.   The sky’s the limit.  I’m excited to see him face someone other than us.”

 

Camelback FanFest

White Sox fans in the Phoenix/Glendale area should head out to CR-G on Saturday for a free, four-hour (9 am-1 pm) FanFest featuring in-stadium batting practice and autograph sessions by both the White Sox and Dodgers.

Concourse activities will include the Free Agent Sports Marketing Sports Card and Memorabilia Show, speed pitch, fan photos, kids’ inflatables, a Phoenix Coyote booth featuring Howler, a Glendale fire truck, and a Cactus League signing with Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry.

Promotional items include bobbleheads for the first 250 kids age 12 and under, Coyote ticket drawing for their March 3 game, spring training ticket raffles and other sponsored giveaways.  Arizona Sports 620 Radio will broadcast from CR-G during the event.

The White Sox workout and take batting practice from 9-10:30 before some of the team signs autographs from 10:30-11 a.m.

Tommy

This morning, CR-G played host to the annual Cactus League Breakfast, with Steve Stone, Ned Colletti of the Dodgers and Buddy Bell of the White Sox speaking to a group of several hundred (note that it was about 38 degrees this morning on the concourse at CR-G, so coffee was in high demand, even if to just hold).  But the star speaker was none other than Tommy LaSorda, longtime Dodgers manager and guest speaker extraordinaire.  He did not disappoint.

Among the stories recounted by the colorful LaSorda:

“Many years ago, I got an urgent call to come to a dinner in Washington D.C. to honor then-President Ronald Reagan, a dear friend,” LaSorda explained.  “They needed me to speak.  So I fly all the way to Washington to attend this dinner for about 3,000 people, something like 37 senators, dignitaries of all types and of course, the President.

“And there are only two speakers.  I am suppose to go second.

“The first speaker is Margaret Thatcher.  She blows the audience away with a great speech and gets something like three standing ovations, loud applause, huge cheers.

“Now, it’s my turn.  As I walk up to the podium, I say to myself, ‘You better think fast.’

“So I tell the audience … ‘As I flew here to DC to deliver this speech, I thought to myself that this is such an august and dignified group that I needed to write down my speech – usually I just talk – but this was important enough that I needed to write this speech down.  And so I worked late into the night.  Finally, around 3 a.m. I thought I’d done it.  I’d written the perfect speech.

“When I work up this morning, I realized I’d lost the speech.  I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Now, I see that Margaret Thatcher found it.”

And another …

“One year, my Dodgers team was really struggling.  We’d just lost our seventh game in a row.  I came into the clubhouse and guys were really down.  Some had their heads in their hands.  So I decided I needed to give them a speech to pep them up.

“C’mon guys, I said.  Things aren’t so bad.  Even the 1927 New York Yankees, the greatest team in baseball history with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, once lost nine games in a row and you’ve only lost seven.  Things will turn around.’

“I’m late leaving the clubhouse to drive home with my wife.  She asks what took so long and so I explained the story.

“Wouldn’t you know that we go on to win our next 10 games.  After the 10th win, my wife and I are driving home from the game and she says, ‘Wow, what you told the players about the 1927 Yankees sure seemed to work.  Did that team really lose nine games in a row?’

“’How should I know,’ I told her, ‘I was born in 1927 …’”

First Full Squad Day

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Your entire 2012 Chicago White Sox took the field today following an 8 a.m. staff meeting, physicals for a few players and staff and manager Robin Ventura’s first full-team clubhouse meeting.

Prior to the workout, Paul Konerko met with the media, and a few of his comments generated some interesting headlines.  I started to cut down Paulie’s comments – which is always tough with him because he is thoughtful and gives long, involved answers vs. typical clubhouse “sound bites.”  Anyway, I decided it was probably better to give you his entire answer to those specific questions and let you judge for yourselves.  To me, Paul wasn’t making predictions about the coming season or being overly negative.  To me, he was trying to point out how this team was going to differ from past teams because of its makeup and how progress could be made by many players in our clubhouse no matter what the final season results were for the team.  But I didn’t read those comments as overly negative.  Anyway, judge for yourself:

On the team’s outlook:

“Every team this time of year, everybody is optimistic and everybody loves everybody. Everybody is hopeful that their own personal season and team season is going to go great. Getting into it, though, there’s a bunch of little bumps in the road, and I’m optimistic that we’re going to do it right, approach it the right away and soak everything we can out of this team, where that puts at the end we’ll have to see. You just start today as a player building habits and as a team you start building habits, and it’s just a piece-by-piece thing as you go. Even in May, June you still have times with the team where you don’t know what you have and you certainly don’t know in the first day of spring training.”

On if the team’s age affects its success:

“It’s kind of a combination. We have picked up a lot of young guys that are going to be on the field and in the bullpen. I think the best thing to do is to not make any comments about what we’re going to do, one way or another. Robin (Ventura) and his staff is going to kind of let us know what they want to see, how they want to go about it and each guy has a different thing in how they want him to play. He’s going to tell Gordon (Beckham) this is what I want to see from you.  You kind of know what they’re going to lay out for each guy and you just kind of attack that. I don’t know why there always has to be a declaration on: ‘This is what we’re doing as a team…we’re trying to win this year…we’re trying to rebuild…’ – It doesn’t really matter. You just listen to the staff, take their words on what they want to see you do as a hitter, defensive player or whatever, and you run with it, and then you add it all up together in the end and hopefully it’s good. We have a lot of young guys, you can’t get around that. There’s going to be young guys in the pen. There are young guys in the field that are still trying to establish themselves. Even the older guys, you never know, if you’re doing well you want to keep doing well and there’s the guys who didn’t have a great year last year and you’re looking for them to bounce back. There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’. I don’t think you have to sit there and say, ‘We’re trying to win’ or ‘We’re going to rebuild.’ Who knows? Look at Cleveland last year. They went into last year, not that they won the division last year, but they came into the season looking to see what they had and ended up having a successful season. I think this year, this team is different than a lot of the teams we’ve had recently. Not to throw anyone off with this, but I think this can be a very successful years without making the playoffs.”

 On how it can be a successful season without making the playoffs:

“We’re starting with a new staff, kind of a whole new era here, and I think you can start building something now. The teams the past few years have been about: try real hard this year to win, you failed, and then you come back next year and try again from a totally different angle. I think what’s happening here is that they’re trying to build something a little more stable, a little more sustaining. If we go out and compete this year and it doesn’t happen – and you see this with some other teams in the league – you build up momentum and use that to build from the year before and I think that’s why it could be successful. I’m not conceding anything, especially in today’s game there’s way too many teams and with another wild card spot, I mean there are all kinds of other things that are available to make the playoffs and there seems to be a lot of parity. I think with the amount of young guys that we have you have to throw that into the equation if we don’t make it to the playoffs but we do it right and go out and compete well. If you look at it at the end of the year and Morel’s had a really good year, Beckham’s had a good year, Addison Reed’s had a great year – those are all good signs that it’s moving in the right direction and that’s what in my mind can be determined to be a success. Again, you don’t concede anything because anything can happen if you go out there and play hard. There’s a very fine line between those teams that finish in first place and second or third so who knows. You have to give a lot of respect to Detroit right now, not because of what they did in the offseason, but because they became a really good team at the end of the year. They were pretty good all year but at the end of the month they just took it to another level and they are the team to beat. They got a lot of guns and we’ll see what goes on there.”

On if the lack of expectations in 2005 reminds him of this year:

“The one thing I remember about that team is that when we were leaving spring training, as a player you kind of know and think about your team and then you think about if you were playing that team what would you think, what do they have. I remember leaving with that team, and everybody didn’t really talk about us, and we weren’t really that big of a deal, but we had every piece of the puzzle. We had the lefty-righty for the eighth innings, matchups; we had all the answers for that. When you put it on paper at the end of the spring you didn’t really see it, but I think everybody in the clubhouse was thinking, ‘how could this team not be good?’ because we had all the pieces on the team. We’ll see how this season goes on. It’s not always the big names, it’s more about the little pieces that you can sit there and see that this guy’s going to get those outs and like the pieces to an equation. That team, a lot of the guys on there knew that going out we were going to be good and hopefully this team gets that.”

Ventura

Following the workout, Ventura addressed the media, talking about his speech and Konerko’s comments.

What was your message to the team today?

“It was pretty short and straight to the point as far as showing up and getting prepared to play. We’re here to win games. It’s important to me and to the staff that they show up everyday ready to play and give good effort. Everybody’s put in too much time and effort into coming out here and organizing stuff for the team for guys to just show up and not care. It’s offensive to me for people to come in who don’t put out a good effort. It’s pretty much that simple for right now.”

What does it mean when you say ‘good effort?’

“Play hard. Right now you’re going through drills and everything else.  I want them having fun but I want them to take it seriously and realize we don’t put it on the schedule just to go through the motions and have it there. I want it done right or we’re going to stay out until we do it right.”

 Do you have any team rules?

“There are a few of them. Be on time is definitely at the top. Be a good teammate and respecting each other and who you represent as far as the White Sox and the city. That kind of stuff.”

Konerko said that this season could be a success without making the playoffs. Do you know what he meant by that?

“Yeah, I know what he meant. He’s talking about the expectations from the outside — of us being young and not even being in contention. If we play well and play good team baseball it can be, but we’re obviously looking for more than just that. I guess the way he’s looking at it, I get what he’s saying.”

Do you want everyone in the clubhouse looking at it that same way?

“No, he’s looking at it matter-of-factly. But he wants more than that too. Sometimes there’s nothing more you can do about it. He wants to win too, but I get what he’s saying.”

Do you believe in team captains?

“He [Konerko] is one. He’s been a captain in the past and he does all of that stuff right. So there’s no reason to change that.”

Facing Heat

Monday, February 27, 2012

Poor Tyler Kuhn, today could not have been the best of days for the infielder.  Kuhn, a left-handed hitter from Lexington, Ken. who split 2011 between Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte, certainly drew the short straw on Monday as pitchers faced live hitters for the very first time.  Among Kuhn’s draw?  Left-handers John Danks, Hector Santiago, Will Ohman and  … Chris Sale (yikes!).

“Guys were flinching behind the screen, let alone in the box,” laughed White Sox manager Robin Ventura after seeing Sale face a hitter for the first time.  The first-year manager enjoyed watching Gavin Floyd throw as well.

“It was great. Going around seeing the pitchers throwing to hitters, not that they were really aggressive,” he said.  “But it’s good to see Gavin, he looked great to me, great changeup and curveball. It’s good to see a guy [hitter] flinch at a curveball, makes you realize how good it is. He’s fun to watch.”

All in good fun, Danks ribbed Gordon Beckham as the second baseman somehow missed facing JD.

“Where were you hiding?” Danks challenged.  “You afraid?”

Cuban Flavor

 Both Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo were in camp today and took part in drills.

 

Golf In The Kingdom

 (Which is a great book, by the way)

Several White Sox foursomes took advantage of Sunday’s short day to sneak in a round of golf at nearby Wigwam Resort.  Darkness halted the festivities – some would say mercifully – but not before the author dropped two dollars (big stakes) to a certain No. 23 (I know that is his number in part because his fancy Vokey wedge says RV 23 in orange lettering on it).

Let’s just say Mr. Ventura swings a golf club like he swung a bat, smoothly, effortlessly and with killer results.

Night Before

With the full squad reporting for physicals and first workout tomorrow, Ventura received several questions today about his full-team speech before Tuesday’s workout.

Have you finished your speech for tomorrow yet?

“I’m topping it off. I’ve got most of the points there. It’s one of those where you kind of go over it and over it, but it’s pretty streamlined right now. I’ve had a lot of time to go over stuff. It won’t be a very long one – it won’t be a good 45 minutes – but it will be long enough.”

Will there be a teleprompter?

“There will not be a teleprompter, no.”

Note cards?

“Well there’s a lot of stuff to go over, introducing staff and everything else. I just have to make sure I get everything we have to get.”
 

Another Day in the Sun

Sunday, February 26, 2012

More position players filed into camp today, including Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, while pitchers/catchers went through another day of drills and bullpen sessions.

“He is a good outfielder, a left-handed hitter and does a lot of good things on the field,” manager Robin Ventura said of Fukudome.  “He gives us flexibility if somebody needs a day or if we are facing a tough righty.”

Adam Dunn took batting practice today.

“It was just good for him to get on the field and swing the bat,” Ventura said, explaining he was not going to set spring training expectations for Dunn, Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham.

Ventura was asked where he ranked among camp’s batting practice pitchers.

“I’ve bounced up and down the rankings,” he offered, “maybe I started sixth and have dropped to eighth.  Mark Salas and Gelly (Mike Gellinger) probably rank at the top.  You are going to have to ask the hitters.  Eventually, they’ll let you know.”

Familiar Faces

Former White Sox infielder Tony Graffanino stopped by camp a couple of days ago.  Graffanino, who now works for Baseball Chapel, has moved to the Phoenix area and will be around during spring training.  Former Sox closer Shingo Takatsu is expected to stop by Glendale in a week or so as part of a Japanese television crew.  Takatsu is still pitching for an independent league team in Japan, also serving as manager.

Health

Ventura said everyone was fine physically, except for pitcher Jake Peavy who “slept on his eye wrong.”  Jake’s workout wasn’t hindered.

Spring Training

Pitching coach Don Cooper echoed a familiar feeling about spring training.

“All winter you can’t wait for spring training to get here, to see guys throwing and out on the field,” Coop said.  “Once workouts arrive, you can’t wait for games to start, and after the first game, you can’t wait for the regular season.”

Early Arrivals

Saturday, February 25, 2012

 

Arrivals

 Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios swelled the ranks of position players to arrive early to camp, and Adam Dunn stopped by mid morning as well and spoke with the Chicago media.

Count Beckham among those excited to get to know Robin Ventura.

“His coolness gets into you just by talking to him,” Beckham said of his laid-back manager.

Beckham has dropped a few pounds before camp this year, coming in more muscular.   “I feel leaner, I feel more athletic. I can tell a difference.”

Ventura compared his rookie season with Beckham’s struggles in 2010-11.

“For me, my rookie year, I struggled worse than he did.  But you have to get to a point where you stop caring about the results and just worry about the process, and play how you know how to play and not think two pitches ahead and think ‘I have to get a hit here.’  Stay simple, play.  Again, you’re looking at a kid that’s talented with great instincts.  Let those play out instead of letting your mind cripple you a bit.”

Ventura was asked about Rios, Beckham and Dunn arriving early.

 

“I think it’s great, guys coming in early,” he said.  “I haven’t seen Adam yet, we were out on the field.  Alex and Gordon getting out there, it’s good.  Alex looks great, looks in shape, swinging great.  It’s good to see everybody and getting out and being ready to go, especially a couple days early.  I’m happy seeing them out here.”

Rios told reporters he hoped to just get back to basics and have more fun in 2012.

Sometimes it’s just that simple,” Ventura explained. “I think you go through seasons where you outthink yourself. And you  just need to get back to basics.  It can happen for him, he’s a talented kid.  I’m really looking forward to getting going. Sometimes it’s just that, come in with a clear mind and just play baseball instead of over-thinking.”

As to where Rios is likely to play … “We’re still going through that,” Ventura answered.  “I know he’s played right field, he’s played center field.  How that’s all going to match-up, there’s no concrete thing to it.  Guys are going to have to be open to moving around and whatever is best for the team is what we’re going to go with, and guys need to be flexible in that way.”

Beckham, Rios and Dunn are all keys to the White Sox offense after each struggled in 2011.  Ventura says patience and hunger are the keys, but the first step is showing up here in Glendale with the right attitude.

“Just that they’re hungry.  I like that. You’re paying attention to how they come in.  Guys came in early.  We had Manto go see Adam in Houston.  Those are signs to me that guys are hungry to come back and play well.  And they’re willing to do that for the team, and that’s important, cause they’re showing everyone else on the team they’re already in, they’re willing to come in and work and do whatever is necessary.

“It’s (struggling) happened to a lot of guys.  It’s part of playing the game and that’s what makes it difficult.  But he’s had success in the past, and that’s what I’m counting on.  I’ve seen him (Dunn) play, I’ve seen him do well. I want him to come in and be prepared to do that.  He has a clean slate. He’s on our squad, he’s not going anywhere.  I’m patient. I know it’s there.”

Pitchers & Catchers

Ventura joked about yet another day of PFP and pitchers throwing bullpen sessions: “They’re getting everybody out!  They are having fun, they are relaxed and everyone is fine physically.  Just to see them throw is important to me.”

Don Cooper to A.J. Pierzynski as Coop watched Gavin Floyd throw to AJ: “You’re going to like that AJ, he’s throwing some heat, and it’s got movement too.”

Role Change

Funny watching Richard Dotson, a 20-game winner with the Sox in 1983, and Bobby Thigpen, who posted a 57-save effort in 1990, now throwing batting practice.

“That’s all I do now,” said Thigpen.  “Hit bats.”

Words to Live By for All of Us

 “It’s hard to get any action when you smell like Ben-Gay.”  — Anonymous

Day Two

Friday, February 24, 2012

 Day 2

A fairly uneventful second day of camp concluded under beautiful, 80-degree skies.

The second half of the 28 pitchers in camp threw bullpen sessions today, and that list included recently acquired pitchers Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez and Nestor Molina.

“It was good to see some of our new guys throw from mounds today,” manager Robin Ventura said.  “It was nice to see what some of your scouting department saw.”

One pitcher Ventura has mixed emotions seeing was left-hander Chris Sale.  The emotions were mixed because Ventura admitted that he still watched some of the pitchers as if he would have to face them in the batter’s box.

“That’s a baaaaad matchup for lefties,” Ventura said of Sale.  “He’s throwing nice and easy, free.  He just needs to build up arm strength throughout the spring.”

Yikes

 Baseball can be a game of inches … and seconds.

After finishing pitching a round of batting practice to catchers, bullpen coach Juan Nieves headed off the mound toward the third base line.  As he reached the baseline, he stopped to pick up a baseball.  Kevin Hickey, the next bp pitcher (and since he is left-handed, his back was toward Nieves), went ahead and delivered a pitch to batter Josh Phegley.

Phegley lined the pitch nearly point blank at Nieves, who spun.  You could hear the ball hit him and sizzle on into left field.

“I’m OK,” a lucky Nieves said, point to a mark near his left elbow.  “But thanks for asking.”

Cubby Blue

 VP of Player Development Buddy Bell sported a bright blue golf shirt in camp today and took some ribbing about his color choice.

“It’s Royal Blue,” he countered, as if that were much better.

Later, Bell watched bp from behind the cage, surrounded by Sox staff in uniform.  One of the things didn’t belong there …

Love

Best sarcastic line of camp today may have belonged to pitching coach Richard Dotson to, of course, AJ.

As the two joked around a golf cart in the morning, AJ ran off to his next drill, with Dot firing a line after him:  “You’re a great guy, AJ.  I don’t care if no one else likes you.  I like you.”

Spring Training: One is in the Book

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On The Field

Nothing is quite like the first day of spring training, even if it is “just” pitchers and catchers.  After a morning full of poking and prodding (“I can’t eat Mexican food tonight,” one Sox coach said after a round of golf last night, “I have my physical in the morning …”), the 2012 White Sox took the field for a workout filled with unique baseball drills  … running, stretching, throwing, pitcher fielding practice (PFP), and then bullpen mound sessions for half of the pitching staff followed by cardio/weight work.  Among today’s throwers were Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jesse Crain, and Jacob Petricka, who for some reason took the mound without a number on the back of his jersey.

As usual, AJ Pierzynski dropped one of the best lines of the day.  “They told us (all of the catchers) to catch someone we don’t usually catch, so I chose Peavy,” he joked.

BP

 New White Sox manager Robin Ventura took to the mound and threw batting practice to the camp’s catchers. You can view video of that, here.

“When was the last time you threw BP,” a reporter asked afterward?

“A week ago,” Ventura countered.  “This I can do.”

Quick Meeting

Ventura’s “team” meeting before the workout was admittedly a first for him.  “I’ve never been in one of those meetings before.”

Observers were stunned at the speed of his “meeting,” which clocked in at about 45 seconds.

“I am not going to use all of my ammo today,” he laughed.

More Ventura And the Media

 Is that the same size jersey you wore as a player?

“Actually it is, I took the same size. Hopefully it doesn’t go up at any point.  I’ll work hard to keep it as it is or even a little less.”

Does it feel different?

“It’s been awhile, so it does feel different. Last year, I just wore it around the Minor Leagues, but it’s obviously different to come out here dressed and do everything that we did with the team today. It’s nice to finally get started.”

When was the last time you threw BP?

“About a week ago. It was actually a pretty short stint, I could throw longer than that. “

Will that be part of your regular routine?

“Yeah, I feel that’s part of being involved and seeing certain things. At the end of my playing career I even threw bp. That’s when I knew I was done – when they ask you to throw bp while you’re a player you know that you’re done. It’s a different perspective and you get to see things when you throw bp to guys.”

Talk about your advantage in starting pitching.

“Especially walking around today you see the arms that are out there, seeing what we have as a staff and the young guys that have a chance in the bullpen. Coop does a great job, and I feel that one of our strengths is our pitching. We got guys in here ready to go and eager to prove a lot of things – and that’s what you want. You want guys that are hungry and come in here, they have talent and we’ll see how it goes.”

Who’s your Opening Day starter?

“I’m not going there yet. We’re going to plan for that and in the next few weeks here should have a better idea about that. “

Who’s your Game 2 starter?

“[Laughs] He’s going to be after one, that’s who he’s going to be.”

And the guy closing the games?

“[Laughs] That would be the guy that finishes the game. But we’re not getting into that right now. I’m going to talk with the guys, see what we have and go from there.”

How important is Jake Peavy to the team?

“He is important. He looked great today, getting out there able to throw – it looked pretty free and easy. For him, and us, it’s important for him to get through spring feeling good. As far as his talent and trust in him, I have that, he just needs to be healthy and feel like he’s healthy.”

What’s your greatest challenge with the job?

“There’s plenty, but it’s not anything I haven’t seen before. The only thing that’s new is I’ve never done a pitchers/catchers meeting. But there’s a lot of stuff that you see, and obviously going through the pitchers and how we’re going to work that as far as innings and everything, that’s new to me but I have Coop here. He’s done all that. I’m not worried about that part of it. There are all kinds of new stuff as a manager, but not new stuff in baseball, so I just deal with it when it happens.”

Comments From Camp

 Matt Thornton:  “The whole offseason eats at you a little bit. If it doesn’t, you don’t take a whole lot of pride in what you do.  We were  sub .500 last year, that’s embarrassing.”

 A.J. Pierzynski:  “Chris Sale looks good, looks like he put on a pound or two.”

 Jake Peavy:  “I just checked out all clean. I’m excited and as good as I can possibly be. First time I’ve been like this in quite a few springs.”

Hard Work

 Catchers always take the most abuse during spring training.  As I walked off the fields today at 2:30 p.m., I held the door for Tyler Flowers, who was coming back to the clubhouse with his catching bag over his shoulder.

“One is in the book,” I said to him.

“Not yet,” he replied, preparing to head into the weight room for another workout.

Kenny Williams

 White Sox GM Ken Williams spent time fielding questions from the media as the White Sox players stretched and played catch today.

Here’s a partial transcript:

On if he’s glad to be back in spring training:

 “Yeah it’s nice to be back out here and see some of the guys that…I’ve missed their company, especially the coaches.”

On his expectations:

 “I think your expectation is always to compete for a championship, and it’s not different now. I know what people are saying out there, and it’s because we underachieved last year, but to a large degree we still have a lot of the talent that people had so much faith in last year. It’s just a matter of getting out there on the field and crossing those white lines to see what happens. If we can play some good, steady baseball from the beginning to the end of the season then we’ve got a chance at this just as much as we did last year.”

On the team’s sentiment this year after last year’s disappointment:

 “Well good. If it’s bitterness then I’m all for that. Bitterness with positivity moving forward, not bitterness in looking back and lamenting on what happened last year to the degree that it holds you down from accomplishing what you want to do this year. Good, if there’s a little bit on an edge that you sense, I haven’t been around the guys as much to sense that just yet, but I’m okay with an edge here.”

On if this is a bounce-back year and if the guys can get over last season:

 “I think it has to be. You can’t, no matter what you’re doing, what your occupation is, or even your personal life, if you allow things to hold you down and you do not make an effort to just push them away, anything negative in your life, and move forward then you’re stagnant. You cannot afford to be that in professional sports. These guys are trained. This is a sport, this is a business where on a day-to-day basis you are competing and a .300 hitter is one of the best in the business but he’s failed seven times. It’s a game, to a large degree, based on failure and you have to deal with that and move beyond it, and that’s where a lot of our guys are. We’ve got a lot of up-and-coming guys that have a lot to prove so I think there will definitely be a good mix.”

On if there’s a difference this year with Robin Ventura as manager:

 “Obviously there is, and to a large degree I’m a little uncomfortable with the cameras and the attention you are giving me right now because I’d rather it be about Robin, his coaching staff and the players. I’m not going to get into the differences because if I do that, then that comes off as if there’s some sort of … I’m throwing darts at what the past guys did and they don’t deserve it. They accomplished a heck of a lot in the number of years that they were her so I would like to stay away from it if possible.”

On if he’s been pleased and surprised by Robin:

 “Yes, but for the most part he is who I thought he was. Keep in mind, this was not a short interview process, this was years in the making of trying to get a gauge of who exactly he is and he hasn’t disappointed. The people that he’s wanted on his coaching staff have not disappointed as well. There’s a lot to be positive about, a lot to be optimistic about. Some of the things that they have planned in their program are going to make us a fundamental ball club and a ball club that plays the game the right way.”

On Jake Peavy being healthy:

“I talked to Jake a couple of times this offseason just checking in on some other things, and he expressed the excitement to me. I’m anxious for the people of Chicago to see the Jake Peavy that we traded for because he’s a special guy, a guy that can be a No. 1 in anybody’s rotation when he’s healthy. I look forward to seeing him out there, not so much in March but in April.”

On Adam Dunn and if he’ll return to form:

 “I’m absolutely hopeful he’ll return to form. He’s got to be more confident than I have to be. I’ve never lost confidence in him. Sure, when you’re watching day after day a guy struggle like him, it is what it is and the reality slaps you in the face, but he’s got a long history of success and if anybody can push aside some of the things that have happened and really see the aberration for what it is, it’s him because he’s got such a long history. I just hope that he gets off to a good, solid start here in spring and carries that over into the season so the Chicago fans can get what they expected when we signed him.”

On if 2005 seems like it was a long time ago:

“Well, it’s not as long as 100-plus years … (then responding to laughter from the media, made the point that that wasn’t what he meant) … I was thinking more when we last won one, prior to 2005, what was it 85 years ago? Listen, I said it the day that I was assigned to this position. I want to win a couple of World Series titles during the time that I have, however long that is, and that hasn’t happened. So, at this point, it is a disappointing run for me personally. The good thing about it, though, is that we look at the players on the field and a lot of teams can’t say, ‘if this happens, this happens and this happens we can be right there and we’ve got the pitching that can carry us through the playoffs and we might get another run at a World Series title.’ As long as you can look out there, and you can dream and you can imagine the positive things happening, that’s a good place to be. There are a lot of general managers that I talk to that don’t have that luxury to at least be able to dream like that.”

On A.J. Pierzynski’s age and veteran status:

“We should be the ones applauded for having A.J. around that long, not him. The one thing that people don’t see about some of these guys out here is the work that they put in, and A.J. Pierzynski, I don’t know that there’s anybody that works harder than him. There may be some guys in the weight room and the peripheral things that you see, but when you get a guy that catches for as many years as he has and you see him sometimes after games, a lot of times after games, on that treadmill after he’s caught nine innings in the middle of July, where it’s hot and stuff, you can’t say enough about he prepares. Mark Parent has some things for him that I think are going to challenge him a little bit more and make him even better than he has been. I can’t say enough about the guys that have been here for extended runs, but we want to reward them and give them another opportunity to get to the postseason and see what we can do.”

On his appreciation that he’s back as GM of the Sox:

 “For me personally, I have always been fortunate, felt fortunate to be a part of this whole equation. If there comes a time where Jerry (Reinsdorf) believes that there is somebody that can do this job in a better way and provide him with a better chance to win, build an organization and do the things that it takes to build an organization, then I will be the first one to step up and say, ‘Listen, you need to make this move.’ I’d be nothing but grateful and thankful and be on my way or move into a different position if he were to suggest that. It is sports, it’s professional sports, and if you do not win – it’s been now three years since we went to the playoffs – changes are made. I’ve gone into this situation knowing that and I can accept that if ultimately that’s the call, and we can go out the next day and go out for a steak and a cigar and it will be all good.”

On changes that will affect the team’s play this season:

 “There’s a different kind of dialogue. When you make changes, you’re not going to have the same conversations, you’re not going to do things in the same manner that you’ve always done them. It’s up to me to see what players offer and make the adjustment and staff alike – what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses – and try to put the entire package together so that it can come together in a way that you can get these guys to produce out on the field. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me. We’ve had talented teams, talented players, but if it doesn’t come together, if they don’t stick together and take care of the guy on the left and the guy on the right and chart a course both, on the field and off the field, towards giving themselves the best opportunity to win then there’s nothing anybody else can do. This game is about the players first, everybody else is secondary.”

Ventura Highway

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Robin Ventura arrived at Camelback Ranch – Glendale this morning, prepared and antsy to begin his first spring training as a major league manager.

“I’m tired of just looking at paper and everything else,” Ventura told the media during an 11 a.m. briefing.  “It’s nice to just get here and see guys in uniform, see guys hitting, throwing, that’s the fun part.”

Here’s a selection of Ventura’s Q&A with the Chicago and national media:

Does it feel like it’s been years since you were actually hired?

“It has. It seems like a long time without doing anything really. You can talk to guys and everything, but it’s different once you actually get here, and the work starts being done and things like that. It’ll be nice once everyone gets here, but it’s at least nice to be here with pitchers and catchers already out here doing stuff.”

Planned out first-day speech?

“I don’t know if I’ve actually planned it out. I mean I know what I basically want to say as far as them understanding who I am and what’s expected. I don’t have it written out, but I know what I want to say.”

What are you going to say?

“I can’t waste all my material here right now.”

How quickly will you decide on closer position?

“There’s competition for everything, but as far as guys coming here with a clean slate, I’m obviously the guy for that because I haven’t really been around to see them enough to pinpoint exactly who’s going to do what in regards to the bullpen. I’m open for letting it go through the spring and seeing how guys do, see what our needs are and go from there.”

Do you have an idea that you keep between the coaches?

“I have a lot of ideas that I’m probably going to keep between myself, the coaching staff and the players. I’m not just going to pinpoint anything right now, we’ll just go forward and get the spring going and see how it goes.”

What do you want to get out of Spring Training?

“Obviously the goal is to get as prepared as you can for Opening Day and to get going into the season. I don’t want guys getting hurt. I want them to get enough at-bats and playing time. If we have spots that guys are working to earn I want to at least give them the opportunities and appearances to be able to show what they have and then we’ll make decisions off of that. That’s what spring is for – to get prepared to actually play in the season, and that’s the goal.”

How do you view flying under the radar/underdog role?

“I don’t know if we’re flying under the radar. We still have the same goals – we’re here to win games and we have to figure out how to do that. Once we suit up and get ready for the season, that’s our goal. Detroit has kind of earned that, coming off what they did last season and signing some players this year. But it’s not going to change the way we approach anything, we’re not going to concede anything to anybody. So that’s fine, everybody can say that, but it’s not going to change my attitude or the teams attitude.”

Will your laid back attitude will help the team?

“Well I hope so. I don’t consider it always laid back. I do have things I believe in as far as the way they play. Hopefully guys can play better; after last year that’s just the situation we’re in, and no one is going to let them up from that without guys playing well. That’s just the facts and that’s just the way it is. We have a long way to go to prove that wrong.”

Any players you’re looking forward to seeing?

“All of them. I haven’t seen any of them really do anything, and it’s good to be here to see all of them.”

Did you dread Spring Training as a player?

“No, spring is fun. You get here and you’re starting back over, starting new. It’s different as a manager getting to see the differences of being ready to come as a player – physically being ready – where this is more mentally being ready to deal with 25 guys versus just worrying about yourself.”

Is this a dictatorship?

“Absolutely. (Smiling) It’s my way or the highway.”

Is there a tone you want to set with the team during the spring?

“I think there’s always a tone you end up with. I don’t necessarily think you can force it on them, but your leadership with your club is kind of going to set that tone. It’s about being prepared to win games, and that’s really the focus of how we’re going to do things.”

Difference between leadership with an individual vs. leadership of a team?

“I’m just going to look around instead of looking into one guy’s eyes. To me it’s not a big difference as far the message you want to get across, it’s the same. We’ll just deal with it.”

Have you thought about your first confrontation, first trip to the mound, etc?

“I’ve never gone to the mound and taken someone out, so that’ll obviously be new. As far as talking to guys, I’ve had arguments with guys before, and competition just brings that out. That’s the nature of what we do, and if you’re passionate about it and care about it, that stuff just happens. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, it’s just the way we do things.”

On what the job has been like so far:

 “It went up and then it went down for a long time because there really wasn’t anything going on. Now it’s been building ever since SoxFest. It was nice to get there, see guys, talk to guys, just seeing that guys are ready to come out here and they’re getting ready to compete.”

On the organization of Spring Training:

 “Well that’s obviously new, but there are formats that have already been in place before. We obviously bring our own things and modify things, and that’s part of having a staff, they do a lot of that stuff. I look over it all and make sure it’s what I approve of and then we go from there.”

On if he thinks he’s replacing Ozzie Guillen or just the new White Sox manager:

 “There’s probably a little of both. I don’t look at it necessarily that I’m replacing him, but I can only look at it as I’m just happy to be in this position with the White Sox. You’re talking about a guy who won a World Series here, played here, managed and won a World Series, so until that stuff happens I’m just proud of what he did and we’ll continue to move forward.”

On if he worries about players’ opinions of him:

 “Eventually they’re going to have to want to play for me, so I do care what they think as far as that. I don’t want them thinking I don’t care about them or care about this organization and how we play. For me, that’s the most important first step in interacting with them.”

 On his focus on the team’s effort:

 “Effort, it’s going to be about effort. This game is so hard as far as mentally; you lose a lot of games, you win some games and to be able to bounce back from that, stay consistent and not lose focus on what’s right and what’s wrong in the way we play the game.”

On if he expects the veterans to do extra work:

 “I think everybody does extra work. We have early work and things like that and guys, they do those things. I think if guys pass on that stuff and the kind of stuff that needs to be done then we’ll obviously have to deal with it. I see guys wanting to put in the extra effort.”

On his managerial style:

 “I’ve seen and played for different people and you take away different things. Hopefully, I can bring a lot of the things that I like. As far as being a manager, you want to be honest, up front and excited to be there, not screw up and don’t make any mistakes. But if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not trying either, so there’s a fine line there. I want guys to be able to enjoy coming to the ballpark. I want them to want to come to the ballpark and play hard, that’s important.”

On the Ventura way:

 “My way? My way or the highway? No. You would like to have it to where you have a way, and it goes beyond your big-league level, you want your minor leagues to feel that this is the way we play baseball, this is what’s expected of you from the minor leagues to the big leagues. Instead of letting go and not caring about little things, you bring that back to the focus of fundamentals and enjoying what you’re doing.  It’s not hard if you’re enjoying what you’re doing.”

Hanging Around

Quite a few players have arrived in camp early, including Matt Thornton, who lives just up the road, Dan Johnson, Philip Humber, Chris Sale and Brent Morel.  Others continued to arrive throughout the day.  Several players headed to the weight room, out onto the field to play some catch and a few to the batting cages behind the clubhouse.  A.J. Pierzynski was expected to arrive later in the day as well.  Coaches began arriving today as well, as Juan Nieves, Joe McEwing, Harold Baines and Mark Parent came by camp to unpack and meet.

Eager to Go

The White Sox clubhouse is all set up and ready to go as are Camelback Ranch – Glendale’s always pristine practice fields.  Vince Fresso, Gabe Morell and their staff have all of the lockers arranged with jerseys hanging.  Roger Bossard, ace groundskeeper, has been in Arizona for over a week preparing the fields and practice mounds for tomorrow’s first workout of pitchers and catchers.  It is amazing how much time and effort go into preparations for spring training even before the players arrive.

First Day Schedule

Thursday starts with annual physicals for staff, pitchers and catchers.  After a late morning clubhouse meeting, the Sox are scheduled to head out onto the field around noon.  Half the team’s pitchers should throw from mounds around 1:30 p.m., and the day should wrap up around 3 p.m., a little later than normal for early in the spring.

Hahn on the White Sox Farm System

Monday, February 06, 2012

Several fans at SoxFest 2012 asked the panel of Rick Hahn, Buddy Bell and Doug Laumann about the perception that, according to some publications and their ratings, the White Sox farm system trails in terms of drafting, signing and developing top prospects. Here is Hahn’s answer from the SoxFest seminar:

“We don’t get too hung up on these ratings. I understand they are a big story right now, and obviously we prefer to show well as oppose to showing poorly. But that’s not the priority within our draft and within our minor league system. Our goal is to do two things with the minor league system; first, provide high impact assets for the major league club in Chicago. This year we have a potential impact starter in Chris Sale who was home grown, a potential impact back of the end bullpen guy in Addison Reed and a right fielder, an everyday position player, in Dayan Viciedo who we developed. So from that element, the farm system is doing what we need it to do.”

“The second thing a farm system needs to do is create trade assets that allow us out onto the market and acquire players to help us in Chicago. We have those available. Obviously, I’m not going to go deep down that list, but there are guys who people want who will allow us to go out and get big league help.”

“Now, the ratings system isn’t based upon other clubs’ opinions. It’s usually based upon a reporter’s opinion, as well as a handful of scouts who will talk to that reporter. In contrast to rating 30th, in 2001 we ranked 1st in Baseball America’s farm system and we had five guys in baseball’s Top 100. Jon Rauch was in the Top 5, Joe Borchard was in the Top 25, Joe Crede was in the 30s, Matt Ginter was in the 40s, and Danny Wright was in the 60s. One of those guys contributed to a championship in Chicago. One of the other four had himself a nice career but bounced around as a journeyman reliever. It’s incumbent upon us to know the players who are going to help us win a championship – players like Joe Crede – and who are the guys who the rating system has inflated or exaggerated a little bit? Those are the guys you trade for other assets, like we did with Carl Everett to help us win in 2005.”

“Over the past five seasons we have been able to draft talented players who have not needed much time in the minor leagues; guys like Chris Sale, Daniel Hudson, Addison Reed, Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham. Addison and Chris give the White Sox two pitchers who went from Class A ball to the major leagues in one season. That’s a tribute to them, to our scouts, to our development staff and to our entire organization. No other MLB team has had two pitchers move that quickly.”

“So if you have these players – guys who already are helping us win games at the big league level – follow a typical developmental path, they are still in the minor leagues. Add them into our Top 10 prospect list and I would guess we would certainly rank far higher than we do today.”

“Yes, we prefer to rank higher but it’s not the purpose of the farm system. It is right that in recent years we have not devoted as many assets to the draft. The fact of the matter is we have X dollars to spend and we made a decision that we were committed to win at the major league level. When you do that you have to make sacrifices elsewhere. I will tell you under our new collective bargaining agreement, our draft spending is going to increase dramatically. Our international spending is going to increase dramatically as well, and with Marco Paddy now representing the organization internationally, we are now ready to reinvest in Latin America. As a result, we are going to start showing up a little better in some of these rating systems. But at the end of the day, give me the Chris Sales, the Addison Reeds, the Dayan Viciedos, and give me the assets that we can move to help Chicago win another championship. That’s what we care about.”

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