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.


Ah…. spring training. :o)

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