Ready for some White Sox baseball?
In advance of this weekend’s SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton and a Feb. 12 spring-training reporting date for pitchers and catchers, second-year manager Robin Ventura is eager to get back in the dugout.
“I’m excited to do what I do,” Ventura said Wednesday at Gilda’s Club Chicago, a support community for men, women and children living with cancer. “I love it. I think last year there was a little bit of unknown that went into it. This year I know what it is and I know who I’m working for.
“I love where I’m at. I’m excited. I like the team we have. I’m ready to get to spring training.”
When Ventura and the White Sox do arrive in Glendale, Ariz., most of the regular starting jobs already are going to be filled, and the pitching staff is all but set.
That doesn’t mean Ventura can just sit back and wait for the April 1 season opener against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.
There are some issues heading into spring training, and Ventura addressed them Wednesday.
As it stands now, Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn are the only two left-handed hitters in the regular lineup.
De Aza is entrenched in the leadoff spot, and Dunn was the No. 3 hitter last season despite batting .204 and striking out 222 times, a franchise record.
Alex Rios batted fifth and led the White Sox with a .304 batting average, 93 runs scored, 184 hits and 37 doubles.
More than a few White Sox fans implored Ventura to flip-flop Dunn and Rios in the batting order. It just might happen this season.
“When we start our first game, (Dunn) might be there (third), but again we’re kicking it around,” Ventura said. “Maybe Rios starts there. With us not having a lot of left-handed hitters right there, you might have to separate (Dunn) and De Aza a little bit more than you would normally.”
With A.J. Pierzynski now playing for the Texas Rangers, the White Sox do have a glut of right-handed hitters in their projected lineup.
There is still time to add a player such as Jason Kubel, who is rumored to be headed from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Baltimore Orioles.
Adding Kubel, however, likely would mean moving Dayan Viciedo, and new general manager Rick Hahn does not appear to be leaning that way.
If today’s lineup takes the field April 1, Ventura will take his chances.
“You’d like to have another left-handed hitter,” said Ventura, a dangerous lefty during his playing days. “In defense of that I told Rick, ‘I don’t want a left-handed hitter just to get a left-handed hitter.’
“In going after somebody and spending money, I don’t want the lefty just because he’s left-handed. He’s got to be the right fit and mean something.”
John Danks has been making good progress following Aug. 6 shoulder surgery, but don’t expect the left-hander to lead the Cactus League in starts this spring.
Ventura said Danks is likely to be held back until early or mid-March.
“I think with the WBC (World Baseball Classic), we’re starting really early, and I really wouldn’t want him to get going,” Ventura said. “And probably (Chris) Sale, the same thing.
“Probably not start them off when we start playing games. Probably push them back to maybe in the middle, just to save them a little bit.”
One thing is for sure, the Sox’ clubhouse is going to be a lot more quiet following the departure of free agent A.J. Pierzynski.
Tyler Flowers is going to get his chance to replace the workhorse catcher, who played with the Sox from 2005-12.
“It’s going to be different any time a player like A.J. doesn’t come back, and it’s happened through the years,” Ventura said. “Mark (Buehrle) was the one last year.
“To replace (Pierzynski), we are going to find out about Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez and our minor-league catchers and what we have to fill that in.
“You appreciate what he’s done for the organization, and he’ll always be a White Sox. It’s not like he never gets to come back.”
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