Ventura has lineup versatility with '16 Sox

Manager has options filling out batting order

March 12th, 2016

MESA, Ariz. - White Sox marketing slogans over the years have ranged from 'Good Guys Wear Black,' to 'The Kids Can Play,' to the always memorable 'All In.'

Nothing has been presented in regard to 2016 for manager Robin Ventura's club, so here's a suggestion: 'Ventura has Versatility.' On a quick second thought, there's not much power to that line, but there is quite a bit of truth.

And it works just as well for potential White Sox offensive lineups as it does for the manager's possible outfield mix.

"Robin is going to have a lot of available guys to put in different spots that could fit," White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. "That's a good part. They fit.

"It's not like, 'Hey let's try to see how this looks.' No, that guy can stay in that spot. We have a lot of guys capable of staying in the three hole that could hit in the two-hole, too, and so on and so forth."

Certain spots appear locked in for the White Sox.

Adam Eaton returns at the top of the order, with a power-packed middle of Jose Abreu hitting third and Todd Frazier hitting fourth. But there's even flexibility within that group, as Steverson explained. Abreu could hit second, and Eaton could even end up there in lineups with new acquisition Austin Jackson at the top.

That second slot featured Melky Cabrera for 54 games last season, Tyler Saladino for 37, Abreu for 33 and Alexei Ramirez for 22. Basically, Ventura was doing whatever possible to ignite a dormant offense that finished last in the American League with 622 runs scored.

In Thursday's split-squad contests, Carlos Sanchez and Jimmy Rollins each hit second, respectively. But don't read anything into the alignment with almost three weeks remaining in Spring Training.

"Right now, you're just trying to put them as close as you can," said Ventura of his lineup mix. "Every day becomes a different looking lineup depending on who's playing. But we've been getting some guys we can move around."

"At the same time, when you face us, it's hard to pick and choose how you are going to dial through our lineup," second baseman Brett Lawrie said. "So, you have to watch out when you come for our lineup. Anybody can hit anywhere and everybody can get it done."

Abreu agrees with Lawrie concerning the apparent lineup strength, featuring 20 homers from 15 different players entering Saturday's game against the Cubs, which featured a regular season-looking lineup. He also knows the work can't stop during the upcoming weeks.

"You have to be able to do what you are doing here in the regular season," said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. "That's when the games matter."

Steverson, meanwhile, sees the ability to turn the lineup back over now as a major plus.

"When one through four may be struggling, five, six, seven, eight, nine could still be picking up the slack," Steverson said. "If they were struggling, we all saw it.

"There were seven guys struggling last year. It didn't look good. This group has the ability to pick each other up if somebody does go wayward for a minute."