Ventura ready to face 2012 challenges head on

Ventura ready to face 2012 challenges head on

DALLAS -- Robin Ventura's first managerial job got a little tougher on Tuesday, and the White Sox have yet to play a game.

With the trade of closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for right-handed pitching prospect Nestor Molina, the organization's rebuilding process officially began. And to say the fan reaction was less than positive would be a kind judgment delivered for the White Sox.

In this baptism under fire, Ventura not only will have to run a team figuring to ship off a few more veteran contributors before Spring Training but also find some sort of life preserver to throw to a skeptical if not downright perturbed fan base.

But Ventura didn't utter a single complaint during his media session Tuesday afternoon at the Hilton Anatole. Instead, he was full of optimism. Ventura knew a rebuilding or retooling process was possible after last year's debacle behind a franchise-record $127 million payroll, and he wanted no promises made when taking on the South Side leadership responsibilities.

His job is to manage the White Sox team presented to him, a group he still feels confident about even with a few more personnel changes.

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"We still have a good nucleus of guys, and I feel like they're going to have a better year this year than last year," Ventura said. "What that is, nobody knows. But I know they are coming in motivated and ready to go.

"Everybody would like to sign 10 new guys to high contracts and everything else, as a fan base, to be more excited. But that's just not the way it's going. We're going to have to win them over by the way we play and putting up wins."

During a 20-minute interview session, Ventura discussed a number of issues related to individual players, team philosophy and Tuesday's deal. Here's a look at some of those comments.

Who closes in Santos' absence?
Matt Thornton rightfully was given the closer's job out of Spring Training last year, but blew his first four opportunities. Last year is wiped off the slate, according to Ventura. Jesse Crain also could be in play for that ninth-inning role after putting up dominant numbers as the team's 2011 right-handed setup man.

Of course, both veterans potentially could be moved through the rebuilding movement. Rookie Addison Reed would then step up, although with just six games of experience, the third-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft could be a little young to take on the role. One thing Ventura doesn't want is a closer by committee.

"Right now, you're going to wait and see how the rest of this week goes and figure it out from there," said Ventura of the closer. "At this point, you're going in and getting it from within.

"So you're looking at some young kids that will be able to have a shot to do it and try and make it work. You feel like you have the talent there to do it and fill that slot."

Adam Dunn will play the field
Not only will Dunn play first base from time to time, but Ventura also sees a chance for the left-handed-hitting designated hitter to get innings in the outfield.

"I think, for him, playing in the National League for so long and the DH is a different ... it's a different position," Ventura said. "And it's a position.

"It's just not a 'throw a guy over there and it's going to be easy.' I think there's some guys that play better by being on the field and get a better feel of the game and maybe at-bats by just being on the field. If that's something that he would want to do, I would entertain that, I would promote it."

Ventura saw the change in Jason Giambi as part of the Yankees, with Giambi preferring to be part of the action from time to time.

Former infield mates could meet
There's no problem in Ventura's mind to chat at the Winter Meetings with Ozzie Guillen, his friend, former teammate and former manager of the White Sox now running the Miami Marlins. They just haven't run into each other.

"Yeah, I don't mind. I'll talk to him," said Ventura. "I haven't seen him. I thought I heard him when I was walking down here."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum and Ventura, who played together with the White Sox in 1992, exchanged pleasantries Tuesday as Ventura's interview session ended and Sveum's began.

Does he expect more trades?
As Ventura quipped, he knew who the White Sox closer would be Monday but not Tuesday. So anything is possible, although not a must-do before the Winter Meetings close Thursday morning.

"You're going to have to get the right people," Ventura said. "And it's not always that easy to get what you're looking for from the other side to be able to move them. It's a question mark, just like it was yesterday."

At the end of Monday's media chat, Ventura veered off the baseball topic to present a BCS Championship case for his beloved alma mater, Oklahoma St. Ventura was in attendance Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., when the Cowboys pummeled the rival Sooners.

He talked about how the system should be more about who you beat and not who you lose to, giving Oklahoma St. the right to play for a title. It's a little tougher for Ventura to make a White Sox championship case for 2012 with the direction they appear headed, but he's ready for the challenge.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.