December 2013

PK’s New Role

Wednesday, December 18. 2013

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Earlier Wednesday, Paul Konerko took part in a special conference call exclusively for White Sox season ticket holders. Here are a few of his answers to questions directly from Sox fans:

 On adjusting to late-game pinch hitting: “I will learn on the job as I go. I’ve had a lot of situations to draw from over my career. Your energy is there and your bat speed is there so you will try to use that to your advantage.”

 On his role with Robin Ventura: I want to be ready at all moments for what Robin wants me to do. I want to be on call for Robin for whatever he needs and not have to worry about what I am thinking.”

On whether he would ever consider coming back in 2015: “This is going to be it. Hopefully this goes well and would love nothing more than to do well when I play and whatever is asked of me. I would love to help some of these younger guys that have talent and be there for those guys. I’m hoping that with the lack of playing this year, there are moments where I have the energy to teach guys things they don’t know.”

On young Sox players Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia: “Eaton is the guy that can make things go if he hits his stride. A guy like Eaton can be a someone who is a complete steal because of the tools he has. He can be a real mainstay. Garcia has as much power as anyone I’ve seen in the last 10 years. If he really gets it, he can be a monster. He could be a big-time threat.”

On celebrating the Christmas season: “When you have three kids, you have to get into Christmas. Being in Arizona, I wish we could have cold weather for one week to feel more like Christmas.”

Welcome to Chicago

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Late yesterday afternoon, newly acquired third baseman Matt Davidson spent some time talking to Chicago media about his reaction to Monday’s trade.  Here are some of Matt’s comments …

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On being traded for Addison Reed:

“It’s pretty unreal.  It would have been awesome if we were working out at the same time when we both got the call.  I haven’t touched base with him yet, but I’m sure we will touch base soon.”

On being in the White Sox long-term plans:

“I’m just extremely glad and blessed to have the opportunity to actually be in the plans like that.  That’s what any player wants and just to know that the White Sox organization wanted me so much that they made the trade.  I mean Addison is a great closer, he had 40 saves last year.  It helps a lot with confidence as they believe in me.” 

On the White Sox and Chicago:

“Well, I’ve never been there and the closest I’ve been I played in South Bend.  I really don’t know too much.  I’ve picked up a Sox hat last night and been wearing in all day.  I like the colors and the uniforms are cool.  I’ve just been trying to check everything out.  I’ve played in high school with Trayce Thompson and actually went to the same high school with Scott Snodgress, who’s in the organization as well.  Mark Teahen went to the same high school, he played for the Sox for a couple of years.  One of my mom’s good friends is Aaron Rowand’s brother.  I’m excited to give them a call and see want the vibe is.”

On changing anything in his game this offseason because of the trade:

“No, not at all.  The bottom line is that I just want to become the most complete player I can be.  Whatever that entails I always work on everything and trying to get better.    There’s definitely a lot more excitement going it spring training with a new team, to a new facility and new city.  It’s the first time I’ve been traded so it’s a new feeling, but definitely excited to get going and start a good year with the Sox.”

On being blocked by players in Arizona:

“It’s awesome, just the mindset where you are just waiting for an injury or whenever you get in you are trying to put a little too much pressure on yourself when you are trying to prove too much with the handful of at-bats you have.“

On the goal of being the starting third baseman:

“Yea definitely, that’s the goal.  I just got to take care of what I need to take care of and hopefully everything goes well.  Whether is staring in Triple A, I trust whatever decision they make.  The long term goal is obviously to be there starting Opening Day or June or even if it takes a whole year.  I just know that when I get there I want to stick in the big leagues.  I don’t want to be just up and down.  Whenever that timetable is just as long the long term is sticking there.”

On U.S. Cellular Field:

“What I’ve learned as a hitter over my career is that where I do have the power, where I do start focusing on that, that’s when I start getting those strikeouts and my approach changes.  When I have that nice line drive approach that’s when the all the home runs start getting out.  That’s just the part of developing as a young hitter and just maturing.  If I can just stay in that positive approach then those home runs start coming, but when I try to do too much just like any other hitter your swing gets long and you start to strikeout.  The fact that it is a hitter’s park you get more relaxed and just know that when you hit one good it will go.”

On Adam Eaton being on the team:

“We played together in High A and Double A.  Obviously it’s going to be a brand new experience and brand new guys, which hopefully is an easy transition.  It’s really cool to have a guy that I was with a couple months ago.  That will definitely ease the transition a bit.”

On his defense:

“I don’t think any type of player with any type of tool is going to be happy with where they are at.  I think nobody wants to quit working.  I feel confidence with my defensive game.  Obviously is always a work in process, you can always get better.  Even Gold Gloves are always working on something to get better.  Obviously having Robin there is going to be a huge help.  I had a lot of people over at the Diamondbacks once I got called up teach me a lot of things in that month with Chavez and Prado and Matt Williams.  I have improved every single year.  When I was coming out of the draft I barely knew how to dive because I was kind of just a pitcher.  Maybe I was totally gifted right away and haven’t been playing shortstop or third base growing up because I was a pitcher.  I had to learn all that at the pro level.  So it has been hard and it has been something that I’ve been working out and I take pride in working on it.  I will never stop working on that.  I know that I have to get better and that I need to get better and that is my goal.”

 

Rick talks Davidson

Tuesday, December 17, 2014

After yesterday’s trade announcement (3B Matt Davidson in exchange for Addison Reed), Rick talked a little bit about the move, how it came about and what it means for the pitching staff.

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On Davidson being Major League ready:

“We were able to acquire in Davidson, another young position player with a chance to be part of our new core. While it’s never easy to give up homegrown players, we did feel it was imperative to start addressing some of the position player issues we have.  You know some of that remains to be seen.  We feel that he has the potential to be a middle of the order run producer for a long time, whether that starts on Opening Day 2014 or soon thereafter.  We’ll have to figure out over the coming weeks and months as we get to know him and see him ourselves.  He was young for the Triple A level last year at age 22.  Although he has a good approach at the plate and the ball jumps off the bat there’s still a little bit of refinement that can take place.  We’ll decide if that’s better to take place at Triple A or at the big league level.  I do feel that when he does get here he’s going to be here for a long time.  We just need to pick the right time to start that.”

On a projected closer:

“I don’t feel the urgency to anoint anyone the closer.  We have some internal candidates such as Nate Jones or Matt Lindstrom or even Daniel Webb, who can potentially fill that role.  We still have some acquisitions which some of them haven’t been announced or at least one of them hasn’t been announced, despite being widely reported, that’s going to help supply some depth for the bullpen.  Frankly our scouts and player development people have done a really nice job over the years providing us with options and I’m confident that’s going to continue.  Just like we entered the 2012 season without anyone specifically anointed the closer, in fact it was Hector who won that job and Addison took it over, we were able to be in first place for a large stretch of that season despite entering spring training without having anyone written in stone in that role.  I just don’t see it’s that essential to do in mid December.”

On Matt’s defense:

“Solid actions, strong arm, good hands, the question that you will hear from time to time with scouts and has been written about publicly is about his lateral movement.  We think it’s going to improve, it’s going to continue to improve, we see him over there for the long term once the development is finished.”

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On how the trade came about:

“The end game was probably quick.  Kevin and I have been talking and we made no secret about going back for several weeks primarily about Adam Eaton, but there were other players in the Diamondback organization that we talked about at times including Matt.  No one probably noticed but right when our press conference ended in Orlando where the three of us were sitting up there talking about the three-way trade I wondered over and said to Kevin we still have interest in Davidson by the way if you see a fit, I think that was Tuesday when we announced that deal.  We started exchanging names on Wednesday and closed the deal off on Friday night.  The end game was quick but the run up took a few weeks.”

On valuing the closer role:

“I don’t think its fair characterization to say that we don’t value it.  I think isn’t more about having confidence in our ability, scouts and coaches to develop someone capable of filling that role.  Look, going back to 2005 we had three different guys close out games in 2005 between Shingo and Hermanson and ultimately Bobby Jenks.  It’s an important role and it’s not an easy job, it’s one where, knock on wood, we have a pretty decent track record in terms of finding the right guy when the need arrives.  It just felt at this time, give where we’ve been from a position side of things, we had to take the opportunity to get what we feel to be a potential long term core position player piece.”

On excitement about Davidson, Aberu, Garcia and Eaton:

“We’re very excited but at the same time we’re optimistic about their future.  We do realize that it’s a process and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, whether it’s from playing in a new country or playing in a new league or getting your really first extended taste of a big league opportunity, the development path is not going to be linear.  When this thing gets right, when the development is complete and we have these players coming along on the same path it’s really want we’ve been striving for awhile here.  We really want to have a young core not just from a position player standpoint, but from a pitching standpoint with guys like Chris Sale and Jose Quintana and Nate Jones and others that play the game we want it played, that have been ideally developed by guys or least have had the finishing touches put on by our guys and our able to grow together in to a championship group.  These four players that we have acquired since July we feel each have the ability to be an important part of it.  Some of the players we have had at the big league level before could very well be a part of it, as well as some of the players we have coming in the system that are near ready.  When we set out to try and cure some of the things that ailed us last season it was with the intent to do this on a quicker time frame and primarily by adding pieces that were major league ready or near major league ready that could grow together, and over the last few months we feel that we were able to do that.”

On potential moves to come:

“Nothing is just one phone call away just yet.  There are a few other items that we have on our wish list.  All of us here have tried to be realistic as we go through this process and realize that we may not be able to address all of the things on our hit list in one offseason, that it may take us into next season or potentially into the following offseason.  There’s still some things we want to do and frankly I’m not sure if we will ever be able to exhale until we get to win the last game of the postseason, whenever that happens in the future.  We feel good about this start but we know that it’s only a start and we still have a few more items that we hopefully can check off our list in the coming weeks before we get to Glendale.”

On trading Addison:

“I can understand some surprise in that and it’s not like we were out shopping Addison.  He’s certainly a quality big league closer and that has value to us as well as to others.  It was just a matter of continuing the process that we started in July that we felt was a little more pressing and that we had some alternatives to potential step in to Addison’s role.  I certainly get the surprise but hopefully at the same time we have done a decent enough job over the months to try to accomplish what we been doing and where we hope to go.”

On trading young players for other team’s young players:

“Ideally it comes from within and that’s where we are trying to get to and I think we are close to being able to do that.  Someone earlier on the call mentioned Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson and others are getting close to being able to help us in Chicago and we certainly over the years have had many home grown pitchers able to contribute to first place division clubs in Chicago for us.  So until we get to that point we are going to have to continue to acquire good, young potential impact position players from other organizations, but I do feel that day of us being able to self efficient in that regard is not too far off.”

On confidence to develop pitching:

“Our scouts have been able to find and sign big league quality pitching talent and it’s a nice luxury for someone in the GM seat to have, but you never feel good about trading young pitching because it’s extremely difficult to acquire in this game.  It does give me some level of confidence knowing that we got those same scouts and PD guys in place, that have developed guys over a decade plus, to find replacements going forward.”  

Ready for the Future

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Adam Eaton talked a bit about the trade, what it means for his future and what he’s going to bring to the White Sox.

On being traded:

“Well, I mean it was very shocking.  This past spring training I thought I was going to be around for five to 10 years, that’s what they told me.  They went into a new direction and so have I.  I’m excited for the opportunity and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be back in the Midwest and in the AL Central.  As shocked as I was it was more excitement to a new beginning, new club and new city, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

On what type of player he views himself as:

“I perceive myself as whatever you want me to do I’ll do.  I don’t care if you throw me behind the plate, I’m going to make the best of it.  I’d love to be at the top of the lineup, but if that’s not where I’m needed than that’s not where I’m needed.  I’ll play anywhere at any time.  I would like to think I’m a Lenny Dykstra, Kenny Lofton kind of a guy that’s going to be a scrappy dirt bag kind of guy that’s going to get after it day in and day out, but hopefully bring in a little finesse too and a little speed and quickness and score some runs.  I think if I can hang my hat on a .300 average and score 100 runs with an on-base percentage around .400 I think I had a heck of a year.  I think it’s definitely doable and that’s what I’m shooting for this coming year.”

On his injury from last year:

“It was a very difficult time in my life and I learned a lot about myself and my wife, we were newlyweds at the time.  It was about week prior to breaking camp, I think I hit around .383-90, I was ready to go.  I was a rookie out of camp but I felt that I earned my job.  I was pumped to start the year and it comes as it did and it’s tough.  The three months that I was out we had a little bit of a setback.  I was two to three days out from actually returning and made a hard throw in Ground Rock, Texas and it kind of blew up on me again so we restarted the process of it again.  I came back fairly healthy I would say.  I don’t think I came back too soon by any stretch of the imagination.  As I heard before with these injuries every throw, especially with the outfield you don’t throw for four innings and all of a sudden you let one loose.  Throughout the rest of the season the confidence grew back in it and the strength of it came back.  It hasn’t been an issue this offseason, I haven’t thrown at all, but you can kind of feel it here and there during the injury and throughout the injury.  It’s been a lot better and I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all during spring training.”

On the mentality of a leadoff hitter:

“To get on base at all costs.  I don’t care if I get hit in the head, hit in the ankle.  Try to see 10-12 pitches and to get on base in any, doesn’t matter, because I know with the guys we have behind us like Konerko, Dunn and Beckham and all those guys am one pitch away from scoring.  I feel like I’m in scoring position when I’m on first when there’s a ball hit in to the gap.”

On bring energy and an edge to the White Sox:

Yea definitely I think that my 5-8 stature I think a lot of people relate to it.  I definitely think I can do that and being a young guy I have to have that type of energy, I need that type of spark.  I’m excited to bring that energy to the team and whatever they need me to do I’ll do it.

On what he needs to work on:

“I think consistency, I think all of us deal with that word all the way to Miguel Cabrera to Albert Pujols to me.  Especially last year I found it more in the minor leagues, but when you get to the big league level everyone else in more consistent. So, you need to raise that level of play and I think if I can be consistent day in and day out with my approach hitting I think my defense will always be there because you can control that energy you bring in the outfield.”

On favorite team growing up and coming to Chicago being a hockey fan:

“I was a Cleveland Indians fan growing up.  I was a big mid 90s early 90s guy with Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel, I was huge fan of those guys.  I’m a huge hockey fan, grew up in Ohio never really got much into the Columbus team, but when we moved out to Arizona we never missed a game with the Coyotes.  It’s going to be a tough transition to say the least but we were willing to make it.  We heard nothing but good things about the Blackhawks and we are excited to hopefully see a few games this winter.”

Trade Talk

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

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Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks, Jerry Dipoto of the Angels and Rick Hahn talked to the media today about pulling off a three‑way trade. Here are some of their answers.

MODERATOR: We’ll let each gentleman make an opening statement, and open to questions.

KEVIN TOWERS:  I want to speak for all of us here, I think we’re all pretty excited about what transpired in the last half hour.  We all addressed some of our biggest needs with us acquiring a power bat with Paul Goldschmidt, we’ll give him some protection.  Mark Trumbo coming from the Angels, and with Rick we’ll get an opportunity to get a great leadoff guy in Adam that will be going to Chicago.

But for us, we came here to these meetings looking for pitching and looking for power.  We tried to add offense, and we’ve got a guy that we can control now for three years.  Two of the probably better right‑handed power bats in the National League, and excited for spring training.  Excited to see how it all works.  Had to give up a lot to get it, but I think we’re all pretty happy with how things worked out.

JERRY DIPOTO:  I agree with that.  For us we came in with a shopping list and looking for young, controllable starting pitching, guys that can make an impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later.  Feel like after Santiago’s and Tyler Skaggs, we were able to address those needs.  It doesn’t come without its element of pain.  Loosing Mark Trumbo is not an easy thing for us to do.  We love him as a player and a person and we’ll miss him.  But for us to sink our teeth into a 26‑year‑old and 22‑year‑old lefty, to move forward with, we feel like we have a very good move for our organization, and we’re looking forward to seeing it get out there.

RICK HAHN:  It’s nice when you’re able to have three clubs up here all feeling good about things.  Obviously as Jerry pointed out, it does hurt a little bit, but it costs something to get something.  Giving up Hector Santiago, a strong, young left‑handed starting pitcher who was tremendous in our clubhouse and a great individual, he’s going to be missed.

But those who have followed our club closely, you know we had a number of positional player needs.  We had a problem getting on base last year.  We lacked a little bit of energy and a little edge.  We weren’t a real balanced lineup.  And adding a guy like Adam Eaton at the top of the order, who is going to bring that energy, hit left‑handed, play solid defense and get on base for us for the next five years is an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

Q.  For Rick Hahn, with Eaton, obviously he had the injury early last year.  What did you see from him in the second half when you came back that kind of let you feel good about him going forward after kind of a setback here?

RICK HAHN:  The elbow injury wasn’t something we felt and our medical people felt would be a long‑term issue.  We were able to see the same player who knew the strike zone and was able to work the count, had a short, compact, line drive stroke, ran well, obviously not affected by the elbow injury and still had the plus arm.

So we certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn’t be a lingering issue.  We didn’t feel it was the same as last year.

Q.  Rick, team speed and on base percentages for last year, did you feel you accomplished two things with one move here?

RICK HAHN:  That and balancing out the lineup too was another issue for us here that motivated us to get this done as well as the character of the individual.  This is a dirt bag baseball player.  This is a guy who has been described to me by someone at this table with words I can’t use.  But looking to give us an edge that we were lacking a little bit in recent months.  He’s a real nice kid for us.  He’s one of the names at the top of our target list.  He’s probably been a pain in J.T.’s side since he started the off‑season, and bugging him about Adam Eaton, which you can attest to.  And we were able to work something out three ways to make everybody happy.

Q.  Jerry, do you think both these guys will benefit from moving into a more pitcher friendly ballpark?

JERRY DIPOTO:  Yeah, I don’t know too many pitchers that wouldn’t prefer to pitch in a pitcher friendly place.  So the answer to the question simply would be yes.  I don’t know in this particular case if that is the primary reason why I would acquire him.  We believe in both pitchers, their stuff, their upside.  Obviously Santiago has had success at the Major League level, and we believe he’ll transition just fine into our park, and it gives Ty a place to pitch that he’s a little familiar with and fits his style.  Again, we have the opportunity to get the reps out there, which is an important thing.

Q.  Rick, I guess (indiscernible) said he prefers to play in the corner outfield.  You’ve got a bit of a crowded house, do you have any thoughts about what’s going to happen there in the corner outfield and what’s going to go on?

RICK HAHN:  We do view Adam as the centerfielder for the next several years is the plan right now.  With De Aza and Viciedo, we have the option of obviously keeping them both and letting Robins play match‑ups based upon on the opposing pitcher or choices he wants to make on any given day or we’ll likely continue to receive calls on both those players that we’ve had over the last several weeks.

At the end, if we break camp or have all four of those or all three of those players on our roster from opening day, there are ways to make it work.

Q.  How did this come together?  Did it start with two of you talking to each other and one of you brought the third in that started the GM meetings and it continued?  When did it all start to get rolling?

KEVIN TOWERS:  Actually, Rick and I have been discussing Eaton for some time, probably over the last month.  He just needed to know if he had a direct fit at the time.  We would have talked about Mr. Sale.  I imagine we might have been doing something directly.  But I still can’t get him to budge there.

Actually two days ago we met with Jerry.  You know, to me a lot about making trades is relationships.  And somebody who worked alongside me a couple years ago who knows our system very well, and specifically Tyler, knew they were looking for young pitching and controllable pitching.  We had a good, brief meeting and sent him a text.  Said, can I get your attention in that Trumbo deal for Skaggs and Eaton?  Sure.  Why don’t you come down and talk?  So that’s where it all kind of began.  I think he had more of a need for pitching and brought up Santiago’s name to me.  I said I think there might be a nice little three‑way here because I know that Mr. Hahn and the White Sox really would like to have Eaton.  They like their left‑handed pitcher like our left‑handed pitcher.  We like your right‑handed power hitter, and it basically came together rather quickly.  Probably within the last 24 hours.

 Q.  Jerry, do you see both Skaggs and Santiago starting the year in the rotation or one of those guys in the bullpen or the minors?

JERRY DIPOTO:  Right now they’re both on the map for us as starting pitchers.  There is a lot of time that has to transpire between now and opening day.

One of the things we like most about Hector is his versatility.  He’s been successful in the big leagues as a starter and middle reliever.  Right now we’d line up with both guys as starters in our equation, but there is still a lot that has to happen between now and opening day.     

Robin Talks 2014

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Manager Robin Ventura met with the media earlier today, prior to the White Sox trade.  Here’s what he had to say in talking about last season and looking ahead to 2014.

 As you sit here right now, is it hard for you to really know certain spots that are locked down?  Is it fluid, a work‑in‑progress?

Yeah, you come down to these meetings, I think you leave the season, especially the way the season went, and you trade guys, have a deadline, get new guys, you kind of see how they play, and then you come down here, you know, there’s stuff kind of flying everywhere, a lot of it probably not true, but, you know, it’s stuff that’s flying around.

So you don’t necessarily know what you’re dealing with until probably you leave here and then have a better idea where you stand and what could happen, who you could be using.

Top of the order is something you guys wanted to address, lead‑off man.  Was a centerfielder was on the list for you guys, right?

You know, again, I think stuff that’s being reported, that’s something that we would like.  I think that’s an honest estimate of where we were last year, what you’re looking for.  Again, we need to be a little more balanced left‑handed, too, throughout our lineup.

So there are things that we definitely need to improve and that’s where you start.

There’s been talk about going a little younger.  Does that kind of suit you?  You like that, younger, a little more energetic type of thing?

Again, you go through a season like you did last year, there are changes.  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.

When you go through a year like last year, what sort of motivation may it give you? Is there a sense of more determination?

Yeah, there’s all of that.  There’s all of that.  But, again, it starts in Spring Training.  I think it’s good for everybody to get away, towards the end of the year you want everybody to refocus and come committed and prepared and ready to go.  If you’re not showing up ready to prove last year wrong, then you shouldn’t be coming, because it was tough for everybody and it’s not fun to watch, either.

What’s fair to expect of young guys trying to come in and establish themselves?

Well, there are spots.  Again, I think that’s what happens when we have a season like we did.  You see guys at the trade deadline that get traded.  But guys that come in and have an opportunity to play, I think even in Spring Training, you are going to see guys that we have that you are going to give them an opportunity to see what they can do.  Pretty much everything is on the table for guys to make an impact and see what they can do. 

If you look at a roster now, you can probably make a roster if you had to.  Would you feel more comfortable if there were other pieces involved?

It’s hard, again, right now.  I think once we leave here, and I think that’s part of being here is everybody is able to talk.  Rick (Hahn), that’s basically what he’s been doing, he’s listening and seeing what makes sense.  But I think once you get away from here you’re going to get a better idea of what makes sense and how it’s all going to fit.

What would you like to see for the starting catcher this season?

Well, I mean, I think both those guys would flow right now, they’ll improve, I think, offensively.  I don’t see “Flow” having the same kind of year.  Physically there were some things that happened.  Phegley, it was his first time up.  You want them to improve.  I think Flow calls a great game.  You see Pheg go through that part of the year where it was different for him being called up and being a part of the action, but you want them to improve offensively.

Have you talked to Adam about maybe how you’re going to handle the line-ups and at-bats?

No, that’s for later, we’ve got plenty of time to do that.  Again, that’s a situation that you have to mix and match and find common ground for both guys to be able to play.  At times I think it’s not necessarily on the left handed or right handed, it’s what makes sense that day for us to win.

The defense was probably as good as anyone in 2012 baseball, 2013 it was not.  Do you get a sense it’s somewhere in the middle?

It needs to be a lot better than it was last year, that’s for sure.  And I don’t think last year is more indicative of what we are.  Again, whether it’s what it was in 2012, but we’re better than we were last year and it needs to get better.  Anytime you put that much heat on the pitching staff.  Defense can be contagious, too, as far as making errors, trying to do too much, and again, not being able to score.

Improving outfield defense, where would you say was that on your team’s priorities?

I’m not going to list it as one, two, three.  But all the way around it needed to get better.  And it’s not just on the outfield, base runs the same thing.  We had a lot of things that needed to get better.  And that’s stuff we take care of in Spring Training.

What needs to change defensively?

It needs to be better.  That’s the bottom line.  It just needs to be better. 

Again, our focus in Spring Training we’re going to get everybody ready, but they have to understand there needs to be a better level of play in what we’re doing.

There have been some changes in baseball with expanded replay and collisions.  What are your thoughts on those two topics?

I think replay has probably become a natural progression as far as we have the technology to do it.  In the end we want to get it right.  And I think everybody is on board with that.  You want to see it right.  It will probably limit some of the going out and arguing and stuff like that.  But in the end I think everybody is on board with just getting it right.

You guys probably aren’t as set at third base as maybe other positions.  As a former third baseman, is that a project of yours to work with that?

Well, right now, if that’s what we’ve got, then, yeah, you sit there and it becomes part of your ‑‑ I think for me even with Joe doing our infield, I would say it’s more my spot to kind of jump in and help out with third base.  With shortstop, Joe would do that.  I think we’d both get over there.

And last year was Conor’s first year.  So there is a bit of a learning curve going into the first year trying to make it.  And I still see him as a good player for us.

As far as catcher, is it something you might add somebody else in order to take a little pressure off of Tyler?

I think right now we’re giving him more time.  And if there’s a way to improve, I’m sure Rick will look to do that.

But, again, right now, where we sit, you’re improving with what you’ve got.  For me what we have on paper right now is all I’m looking at.  The pie in the sky of what could possibly happen, because down here there’s enough rumors.  We could have a whole new roster by the time I have lunch.

Last year you were managing in a difficult situation, and even the previous year when you had a winning team.  Do you assess yourself?              

I think anytime you go through a season like we did, it’s harder.  It’s harder as far as keeping guys motivated, just upbeat and going, because losing is not fun.  I’ve been on teams as a player that were the same way.  And winning, you don’t have to do much.  You just let them play.        

I don’t know personally which ‑‑ I know this one was harder, a lot harder.  But this one coming up is going to be better. 

Is there a natural energy to adding new ‑‑ assuming you’re going to be even adding some today?

Well, I think if it’s the right guy.  And if they are good players and go about their business and play well, it helps.

How about hard‑nosed, kind of scrappy kind of guys, do you like that kind of feel?

Yeah.         

I know this past year you guys had a fair number of injuries, but over I think the last six or seven years you’ve been among the lowest.  What is the secret for you guys, not to jinx you or anything?

I don’t think ‑‑ last year we had plenty of it.  Again, the medical staff does a good job and you have to be lucky, too.  There’s a lot of it that ‑‑ I don’t know if you can explain it, of how it happens, because there are some freak injuries that happen you don’t foresee coming.  But I hope it continues.

What are your thoughts on the home plate collisions?

Again, it’s part of the game.  But I think more of it needs to come maybe from catchers at the plate.  It’s always been part of the game.  And for a lot of people it’s an exciting part of the game.  But you see the injuries that have happened over the last few years and you also wonder if it’s really necessary.  But it’s been part of the game.

What do you expect from Ramirez?  If you look at the whole of his season he’s a real good player.  What would you expect after some personal trauma was put behind him?               

It was a tough year, personally for him just emotional stuff.  It’s tough to separate it when you come to the ballpark.  I thought he did the best he could of putting that aside.  It’s not always that easy to do, especially when you start losing games.  That becomes a harder issue to kind of separate and put it aside.  But he still put up numbers offensively.

But defense is usually where that shows if your mind is wandering.  So I expect him to be motivated.  I think even with us signing Jose, for him to come in motivated and being a leader.

He hit a lot of ‑‑ he hit a lot of steals last year, was it primarily the function of you and the coaching staff picking spots for him?

He has a bit of freedom to be able to do that.  And more of him hitting higher up in the lineup was a better spot for him to steal bases.  But, again, that’s part of him improving and getting better and learning how to do it.  But for me they need to have the ability to be motivated to do it and the freedom to do it.  I think they were pretty aggressive in trying to do that.

Seems like every year we talk about Gordon Beckham.  Does it seem like he’s finally becoming that guy people expect him to be?

I think so.  Last year the way he went through spring and the way he started, you know, really expected a great offensive year for him.  And then he broke his hand on our first road trip.  And I don’t think at any point last year he was one hundred percent.  That’s just unfortunate.  That’s the way years go, something might happen and it derails that.

But knowing the kind of kid he is and how hard he works, you know, the way he started that spring, and how motivated he was, I expect that same thing this year from him.

One of the guys who you were sort of counting on for more last year was Viciedo.  I know he was hurt for a while.  Does he need to scale back on his swing a little bit, how does he get from where he’s at to where you want him to be?

There were points of that last year that he got to.  He went through stretches where he looked as good as anybody.  And he also swings as hard as anybody.

When he did get hurt I think some of it helped him because he couldn’t swing as hard as he had before.  But that’s part of him being a player and learning how to do it.  He has the tools to do it.  Again, we’re looking at a kid that’s continuing to grow and get better.  We just want it ‑‑ I think everybody just wants it now.  And everybody has their growing pains and being able to get there.  But he does have the tools to do it.

You just punch him in the ribs then? (laughing)

There were occasions where you wanted to bump him into somebody.  But again, he’s a good kid and you look for good things.  He’s continuing to grow and the potential is there.  I think everybody has seen his power and his ability.  When he goes on his little terrors, he carries the team.

You personally stepped out and thought he was going to have a big year last year.  You said that.  And that’s not really your MO to make statements like that.  Do you think it was ‑‑ that prediction was impacted by the injury most?

Yeah, I think for a lot of guys that you look at them in Spring Training and you see how they’re doing.  Haven’t seen other guys throughout my playing career, you see guys in Spring Training and you can tell something is different as far as just the way they’re swinging, the way they’re seeing the ball.

He had that last year in Spring Training.  Injuries will do that.  I think anytime you have that kind of ‑‑ sets them off in a different direction.  It’s hard to get it back of what you had.

 He came back from that injury driving the ball to right center and all of a sudden it disappeared?

Yeah, and that’s part of the evolution of him becoming a better player.  And again, we’re just continuing to be patient with him.

You go to Spring Training with the same plan or do you have to change things because of the way last season went?

I think you change it a bit.  It’s hard to just sit there and change the whole thing.  But, again, I think the emphasis, last year we had an emphasis on defense and doing everything.  But when you have a season like you did last year, it’s pretty obvious to everybody it needs to improve.  So everything needs to be sharper.  It’s pretty simple to explain to them.

 

 

PK’s back

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We announced some exciting news yesterday — that Paul Konerko would be returning to the White Sox for the 2014 season. Take a look at what Rick Hahn, Robin Ventura and Paul Konerko all had to say about the decision and what this will mean for the team moving forward.

Rick Hahn

On how tough it was to find the right fit for Konerko on the team:

“It wasn’t a difficult process on our end.  It was more about giving Paul the right information, time and space to come to his own decision about how he felt about the new role.  It was incumbent upon us to be honest with him and tell him straight how the fit would work out and how we envision the club moving forward.  I think it was more difficult for Paul, but we’re obviously pleased he came to this decision.”

 On negotiating the contract with Paul:

“I don’t think the money played a real large role in the decision for Paul.  He spent most of the time, when we met in November, discussing the role and opportunity with the club going forward.  In the last week or so did we put pen to paper on an offer and try to figure out the right parameters.”

 On Konerko’s new role with the team:

“He is going to have the opportunity to be used in a variety of roles as Robin sees fit on any given day.  That could be DH-ing against certain left-handed pitching, facing a tough righty here-and-there as we give Jose Abreu a chance to develop into an everyday first baseman.  A large part of the role and what we spent a large time talking to Paul about is his presence in the clubhouse and being able to continue to mentor some of our young players as we transition this roster over the next several months.”

 “He met with Todd Steverson in November as part of this process so he would understand Todd’s approach to hitting and the method Todd wants to teach.  I think Paul will play a role in reinforcing some of what Todd hopes to instill in our hitters.”

 “Paul represents what we hope young White Sox players evolve into being both on and off the field and having him around as a role model and mentor has a great deal of value to us as we turn over this roster.”

On how this impacts Adam Dunn’s role:

“I think Adam will be expected to deliver a high level of offensive performance, primarily against right-handed pitching. He may get fewer chances against lefties due to Paul’s presence, but that’s something that we’ve been discussing internally over the past several months and Adam is aware of it.  If anything, perhaps a day off here and there will help Adam.  Having most of his at-bats come out of the DH role should help him remain strong, and the matchups should remain favorable when he’s out there.”

On Paul’s role morphing into a coaching position when he retires:

“We haven’t gotten to that point yet.  Certainly as much as he’s meant to this organization and as bright of an individual that he is, it is something you can envision down the road.  The conversation at this point is about his playing career and not about what’s next.”

On priorities heading into the Winter Meetings:

“We still have work to do.  We want to continue to make steps towards retooling this offense. We’re not closing off any options that can help us get better, whether it’s on the position side of things, where we clearly feel we have need to improve, or even on the pitching side, where we feel is more of a strength right now. It’s more about finding the right fits for the long term.”

Robin Ventura

On Paul coming back:

 “It’s nice to have Paul’s presence here. I think he is looking forward to being productive on the field and have an impact off the field and in the clubhouse.”

On having Dunn/Konerko/Abreu:

“It’s trying to get those guys at-bats, match-ups will have something to do with it.  It’s not going to be set in stone that these guys will be playing on certain days.  There will be a bit of mixing and matching going on, but the type of individuals I’ll be dealing with and how professional they are I don’t sit and bang my head over it.”

Paul Konerko

On the toughest part of your decision process:

“I knew back in September/August, maybe most of last season, that if I was going to play next year it was going to be something like this.  Whether it was going to work with this team or another, I had to come to grips on that.  Accepting of the role, I’m probably way ahead of everyone else on that whether it’s people on the outside, the media, my family and friends because I knew where this was headed.  I knew that if I wanted to continue to play this is where it was going to head.  I’m excited about it because I probably wouldn’t be coming back to any situation if I knew I was slated to play a lot. This will be it for me.”

 On assisting the coaching staff:

“I would never insult a coach with thinking that anything on the player’s side comes anywhere close to what they have to deal with and what have to do to do their jobs.  I don’t look at it like that.  It might give me a little taste of perspective because I will have more time off to watch a game as a coach might to give me some insight to what they go through that if years down the road I decide or if an opportunity comes up it might turn me off to it or it might turn me on to it.”

“The biggest conversations that I have had were with Robin and also with Todd Steverson.  I just wanted Steverson to know that, I don’t know how many games I’ll play or how much I’ll be in there, there is going to be a lot more time when I’m not playing and a lot more time when I’m talking to guys which leads to hitting.  I just wanted to get off on the right foot with him and let him know that he is the guy.  I didn’t want to have a situation where I would have to go through six months of being afraid to talk hitting with a guy, but he made me feel nothing but welcomed and told me many times that he hopes I  come back.”

On accepting his new role:

“The one thing about this role is there will be more time I won’t be playing. I’m hoping to bring back the things that made me good throughout my career. If I can help to get guys going and turn things around, that is where my energy will be spent.”

“I hope I can impact some games in a good way. My only goal is to come back, do what I am asked and get this team going in the right direction.”

“Just getting into the fact that I’m not the guy anymore.  I had my time in the sun.  It kills me to see some of the guys we have not having their time in the sun as well as they should.  We should be having guys that are making All-Star Games that are getting monster contracts that are doing all these things.  At this point in my career I can look back and say I’ve done all that, because I have; it’s in the book.  I’m just hoping that some of these guys can realize their potential.  It just kills me to see some of these guys not doing as well as they can be doing.”

On having a farewell tour:

“I sure hope not.  If anyone thinks that about me, he doesn’t know me and I certainly don’t want that.  The easiest thing for me to do would have been to just retire.” 

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