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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Despite uncertainty, Ventura optimistic

By Doug Padilla

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura left the winter meetings Wednesday afternoon to return home to California, still uneasy talking about the 2014 roster.

Robin Ventura
Robin Ventura's lineup will have a younger look in 2014.
It's not that he doesn't like what is happening with the team's youth movement. Actually, it's quite the contrary. He knows young blood is a necessity after the disaster that was the 2013 season and welcomes the opportunity to improve the overall talent.

The problem is that Ventura doesn't know exactly what he will have on Opening Day, essentially because the front office is still busing revamping -- if not rebuilding -- the roster.

Case in point was Tuesday's move to bring aboard new center fielder Adam Eaton, a move that would seem to make Alejandro De Aza expendable, unless the White Sox are somehow thinking of platooning him in left field with Dayan Viciedo.

Then again, moving Viciedo now could make sense because his value would only crash land if he repeats his limited production in the upcoming season.

There is also the potential for the White Sox to make changes at catcher and third base, while bringing aboard an experienced left-handed reliever.

"You come down to these meetings, 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," Ventura said this week. "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."

The Eaton move at least gives Ventura a leadoff man to pencil into the lineup every day. Gordon Beckham is the likely No. 2 hitter and then Ventura has to decide if he wants the Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko combination, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu to bat third.

A likely scenario has the more experienced Dunn/Konerko duo in the third spot, followed by Abreu and Garcia. Youth will be served in at least three of the first five spots in the lineup.

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

Also left to decide is what the White Sox want to do with Ventura himself. He turned down a contract extension last offseason and will enter the final year of his original three-year White Sox deal.

"I don't think about it," Ventura said. "Again, I enjoy doing what I'm doing, I love who I work for. I'm just getting ready for the season. And whatever happens from here on happens. But I'm happy with what I do. I would like to keep doing it, but, again, that will be for later."

Instant reaction after Ventura turned down the extension was that he didn't see himself in the manager's seat beyond 2014 and his decision to take the job in the first place was only a temporary move. Since he insists that isn't the case, does he regret turning down the extension that would give him at least a little job security heading into the season?

"No, no," Ventura said. "Again, if for some reason (general manager) Rick (Hahn) wants somebody else to do this, then he's going to have somebody else do this. That's just the way it works."

Despite the questions that surround the White Sox following a 99-loss season, Ventura has found a way to be optimistic about all of it.

"I think anytime you go through a season like we did, it's harder," Ventura said. "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. Winning you don't have to do much, you just let them play.

"I know this one was harder, a lot harder, but this one coming up is going to be better. That's the way you go about it."