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Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

Q.  How do you look at 2013 with an incomplete roster right now?  Do you just work with Rick and Kenny every day to talk about where it might be going?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah.  You can't look at it as a complete roster really.  Even down here with you see with what kind of phone calls are coming in, asking for guys.  You have to explore those options.  Whether you like them or not.

Q.  How do you look at 2013 with an incomplete roster right now?  Do you just work with Rick and Kenny every day to talk about where it might be going?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah.  You can't look at it as a complete roster really.  Even down here with you see with what kind of phone calls are coming in, asking for guys.  You have to explore those options.  Whether you like them or not.

But, again, it's not a complete roster, so it's not done yet.  The foundation of what's there, you like a lot.


Q.  Robin, third base is obviously a question mark at this point.  Can you talk about the different options.  I'm kidding when I say this.  Is player manager one of them?

ROBIN VENTURA:  No.  I can clearly say no.  There are options that are there.  I don't want to go down the road of just naming what they are, but you are looking at a team that's fairly dominant right‑handed right now.  You have to look at maybe left‑handed options that might fill that one or other spots.


Q.  Because you can concentrate on the guys you have coming back, has there been much thought about giving Konerko more of a break in the form of DH and starting Dunn more at third base?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I think that will probably happen.  I think for Paul, what goes through the course of the year, it's a lot.  It's a lot to have him be the everyday first baseman.  I think Adam proved towards the end that he can play first base and give Paul more time.

As you get to that age, you ‑‑ not that he's done by any means, but it's going to help him to have more time off and maybe not be on his feet so much.


Q.  Were you surprised how good Dunn was considering at one point he made 13 errors at first base?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Well, he's athletic.  I think that's another part of it.  I'm not sticking a guy over there who can't play.  He can play.  So getting him committed to do it isn't going to be hard to do.  He likes being on the field.  That's another thing that could be a possibility.


Q.  Robin, Brent says he feels healthy for the first time since last Spring Training.  What do you need to see out of him to know that you can make count on him in an increased role at third base?

ROBIN VENTURA:  You go back to him being healthy.  That's the number one thing for him.  He's not out of the equation for me at all.  Him being healthy and coming back, he's a good third baseman.  When he's healthy.


Q.  Most people think, most people around here too think that you did a really good job last year.  Knowing the way you drove yourself as a player, be better off at times, is it the same thing with a manager that you feel you can improve and be better at your job next year.

ROBIN VENTURA:  Yeah, I think any time you go into something, you think you know it all or are done learning, you're going backwards.  Getting better even at in‑game stuff, in between game stuff, after game stuff, even with you guys, which hopefully I get better at.  I think it would be good for you guys too.


Q.  Is there a specific thing that you've thought about that you think ‑‑

ROBIN VENTURA:  I'll keep that to myself, things that we'll work on because you don't want it to be mechanical enough that guys know ‑‑ think you're faking it or doing anything.  You kind of roll with how it's going and the emotions of the team.  It's not a script by any means.

So the season's different every year.  I'm going to be different game to game as far as what happens and moves you make.  Attitude‑wise, I'd like to be the same every day, but everything's different all the time.


Q.  Were you surprised that you were as good at it as you would appear to be?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I don't look at it as I was good at it.  I think I can get better.  That's hopefully what happens.


Q.  Chris Sale was so good last year.  How much better can he be, and how does he get to that point?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I think he's more experienced.  He's going through a period where he's had a full year of being a starter, knows what it takes.  He can prepare.  He has this off‑season to prepare knowing what he went through last year.  He's going to be better, and he'll be stronger.  He's a good pitcher.  We did find that out that he's a good starter.


Q.  At this point of the year or his career, Konerko is who he is.  Is there any possible way to get him to stop beating up on himself, to lighten up, or will that change?

ROBIN VENTURA:  That's just him being him.  You learn a certain way to play and how to push yourself, and he's hard on himself.  He wants to ‑‑ I don't know if it's perfect, but pretty close to it, and it's hard to do that.  Mentally, over as many games as we play as a team and him individually, that's part of what's made him as good as he's been over his career.


Q.  If A.J. does move on, how comfortable are you with Tyler as your starter?

ROBIN VENTURA:  You're going to become comfortable.  That's one of those, if that's what happens, I haven't seen Tyler.  You just have to give him at bats.  I think he needs more at bats for us to have a really good sense of how he's going to be offensively.


Q.  Do you like the defensive side?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Absolutely.  I like the way he calls a game, command, and his presence behind the plate.  What he does is fine.


Q.  Is that a disappointing part of last year, that A.J. was so good that you couldn't get ‑‑

ROBIN VENTURA:  He didn't get as many at bats that you would have liked to have seen him get.  Until he gets those, you're not going to have a true sense of how he's going to be.


Q.  You might not have that choice, though.



Q.  You do ‑‑ you know what he has to do, cut downs, strikeouts.

ROBIN VENTURA:  You know that, but you're looking at giving him the majority of those at bats and see how it goes from there.


Q.  Addison Reed knows his role.  How much is that going to help just having a year under his belt?

ROBIN VENTURA:  It's going to help a lot.  He went through a stretch of pitching great and at times he found himself getting tired and getting into a little bit of trouble.  I think that's what happened to a lot of our guys that were young is they realized how long of a season it is and how to maybe conserve a little energy here and there during the middle of the season.

But passion‑wise and effort that they give isn't the question.  It's getting that experience of going through 162 games and being ready most every night, which is not easy.


Q.  Robin, can you talk about how happy you were that Jake is coming back and the depth you have in starting rotation.

ROBIN VENTURA:  It's important.  You get the depth of starting pitching, his leadership, and what he brings to the table has helped a lot of our young guys.  We do have quite a few young pitchers that benefited from him being on that staff and helping them prepare.

As well as him being a good pitcher, he's a great leader.


Q.  If everyone stays and plays, Robin, what do you do with Santiago?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I think things happen during the year that it starts moving around.  He's done a lot of different things for us.  Starting out at as a closer and kind of went to relief and started out at the end of the year.  Really he's a chameleon in a way that he can do a lot of different things.  You're never going to go through a season where it's perfect and nobody ever moves around and nobody gets hurt.

I don't know exactly how he's starting the year because, again, until that roster's set, when you go to Spring Training, you don't know really what you got.


Q.  Do you have an expectation on what you'll get out Danks, or do you have to wait until Spring Training?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I think you'll wait to Spring Training.  I would like to be very cautious with him.  He wants to pitch.  He's that kind of kid that, having been hurt for the whole year, he wants to pitch as fast as he can.

I think for us, knowing what kind of pitcher he is, you're going to be careful to make sure he is healthy when he comes back, 100% healthy.


Q.  Can you see a scenario where you have four left‑handed starting pitchers?

ROBIN VENTURA:  You could.  You never know.  Again, until we get to Spring Training with a roster, you never know.  I mean, you can't ever say that that is 100% not going to happen.  But it would be odd.  You're going to throw your best pitchers.


Q.  Robin, come January 16th, what's your thoughts on if Joe Torre comes asking for Jake, how do you feel about Jake playing in the Classic?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Again, having guys that are experienced and understanding how to get themselves ready.  What I look at it is it's an honor for Joe to ask them to play.  It's up to them, and I encourage them to play because it's a fun experience.  They just have to be ready for it when it happens.

I think that them telling guys in January that they're going to be on the team is important, just so they can be ready by the time they start training, that they're preparing properly.  It's an honor.


Q.  Did you guys just simply get outplayed in September, or was there a level of fatigue ‑‑ there was a lot of discussion about fatigue and all the close games that kind of wore you guys down.

ROBIN VENTURA:  It's baseball.  When you lose, you can use a bunch of different words to describe it.  You are outplayed because you didn't win.  Were you fatigued?  Yeah, but so was everybody else.  Did you choke?  Yeah.

You can say it in a way that, if you don't win, you choke anyway.  It just didn't happen.  Our worst stretch of baseball happened at the very end.  That's part of baseball.  We didn't hit very well.  For that period of time, it felt like we couldn't score, or if we did score, we didn't pitch well that night.  That's baseball.  The effort was there.  Being prepared and all those other things were there.  It just didn't happen.


Q.  Last year in Spring Training was almost a crash course for you, getting acclimated with players' strengths and weaknesses.  Now with the World Baseball Classic, you get another week.  Does that allow you to take an extra peek at guys that would help you in July and September?

ROBIN VENTURA:  You can.  Even in September, that's one of the things that happens.  When somebody goes down, you're going by the word of somebody you really haven't seen that much.  Quintana was one of those.  We had so many guys that came up and contributed.  It's nice to take a look at those guys during the year, or during the spring, because you won't have a clear thought of what you're getting and what you're asking for when you got called up.


Q.  Sale got a lot of attention because he started up and faded let.  Quintana was almost in the same boat.

ROBIN VENTURA:  You're just looking at young guys.  162 games is a long time.  The experience is going to help them.  We asked a lot of them, and for the most part, they came through.


Q.  Did you watch the postseason?  If you did, do you say, hey, I saw that in game one or saw that in game three.  Did you do that to yourself?

ROBIN VENTURA:  No.  I saw a game here or there.  I didn't plan out a day to sit there and watch it all.  You see a game and let it go.


Q.  Robin, were you exactly the same manager all year, or were there times where maybe the game sped up on you a little bit?  Sort of like what will happen with a young player where you had to sort of step back.

ROBIN VENTURA:  I'm sure it happened.  I don't know the exact game or ‑‑ you know, I think, again, this is going through it for the first time.  I don't think anything happened necessarily where I was sitting there and not being able to make a move or think properly through the situation.


Q.  I guess it would be more of a case of you found yourself ‑‑ I don't know if over managing was the right word, but maybe doing more than letting the guys play at certain times.

ROBIN VENTURA:  I think for the most part I let them play.  Early on except for maybe doing some bunting or maybe stuff like that, but I do realize they're the ones that have to play, and I would rather stay out of it.  I'd rather them perform than me sit back and think that I can actually win the game by myself.  They're the ones that are going to win the game.


Q.  Rex talked yesterday about the need to win games by the home run.  I know you talked about it during the season.  Have you and your staff talked about just points of emphasis during Spring Training to work on and get that point across?

ROBIN VENTURA:  Again, for us, the leaving guys on third base as much as we did down the stretch, you want to make that a common at bat instead of them feeling like there's a lot of pressure when that happens.

I don't know if you'd start Spring Training having part of a drill being that, but it is a point of emphasis of being able to get that done because it sets you back when you don't get that run or moving guys along.  So the situational stuff is probably going to be more put into play in Spring Training as far as just a drill or even playing games.


Q.  Is that where Harold's experience comes in?

ROBIN VENTURA:  His is everything.  Again, he was very good at it.  So I think that's something that maybe guys sit down and have a session with Harold and slow the game down because those situations, if you let it, that's when the game speeds up.  He was very good at slowing it down.


Q.  Your starters pitch to expectations, pitch to their levels like they've shown in the past, how good is that rotation?

ROBIN VENTURA:  It's good.  Again, it's something we feel confident with the pitching that we have.  Again, you can't guarantee it, but you like it going into Spring Training.  We feel we have an abundance of arms.


Q.  Robin, do you consider yourself kind of a trend setter at all?  You and Matheny.

ROBIN VENTURA:  That's the last word you would use with me, believe me.  Believe me.


Q.  I mean, the success that both of you had, and now you've got Weiss and Redmond coming in.  It's good to see young guys without much experience get a chance?

ROBIN VENTURA:  I don't know if it's trend setting or a fad, but you're also looking at organizations that know these people.  So it's not like these organizations are hiring somebody that they don't know.  They're hiring people that they're very familiar with that they think can handle it.

It's good.  It's good that they get that opportunity.  I hope they have success except when they play us.


Q.  It hadn't been done much in the last few years.  Like you say, it may be a fad.

ROBIN VENTURA:  Again, it's their comfort level with who they're dealing with.  Maybe it's something that wasn't thought that much of before that now they see it might have worked or teams are having a comfort level with people they might have known in the past.


Q.  Are you starting to look forward to Spring Training, or is it too early for that?

ROBIN VENTURA:  It's still too early.  I am looking forward to it, but it's ‑‑ you don't want to start looking forward to it in December.  I'm excited for it.  It's one of those, when it gets here, we'll be ready to go.

It's nice to be home with the family a little bit too.