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Learning continues in losing environment

9/14/2013

CHICAGO -- As the playing time comes for Chicago White Sox prospects, so does the losing, which makes for an awkward learning environment.

Kids like Marcus Semien and Erik Johnson have the opportunity to play, yet all around them are veterans who look sluggish and worn down from a demoralizing season.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura isn’t worried that the situation might become counterproductive. If the undesirable game results become a negative influence, then the White Sox’s top young talent isn’t as headstrong as the team thought it was.

“If we’re just sitting there handing out time, that would be one thing. But you're looking at guys, you're trying to get an evaluation of how guys play,” Ventura said. “For them, it's their future. If they want to come up and waste it, that's on them, and you move on and go to [somebody] else. This is the big leagues, and it’s about what you do and how you go about your business.”

Johnson has hit some snags trying to replicate his solid minor league season at the big league level. The former second-round draft pick, who has emerged as the top pitching prospect in the organization, has a 4.66 ERA after two starts and has been plagued by poor defense behind him.

So far, Johnson insists he is not demoralized by veterans struggling on defense behind him, and the White Sox won’t pass judgment on him at this early stage.

Semien has taken full advantage of his chances, putting up a .316 batting average and .350 on-base percentage in his first six games.

Another member of the roster taking advantage of his opportunity is reliever Jake Petricka, who came up just before rosters were expanded but is getting an extended look in September. In 10 appearances, he has allowed just two earned runs, giving him a 1.46 ERA.

Pitcher Charlie Leesman took his lumps recently, when he wasn’t able to retire any of the seven batters he faced Thursday against the Cleveland Indians. All seven came around to score.

“If you’re going to do something to make us better in the future, that’s how you evaluate it,” Ventura said. “I think a lot of guys that have played a long time, they’ve been on good teams, they’ve been on teams that were bad, they’ve been on teams that were not going to be in the hunt. The year doesn’t change how you play the game.

“There are things that are going to be different now because we’re playing some young guys, but you go out and play hard and the effort still has to be there.”

Ventura said just because the young prospects have reached the major leagues, it doesn’t mean the learning process has ended.

“I think the younger guys learn as much from the players they're around than they do from us telling them what to do,” he said. “When you see a Paul Konerko work or an Adam Dunn work, you're seeing the amount of work that goes in and how they go about their business and how they treat each other, what it takes. That doesn't change.”