Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

October 2011 Archives

White Sox have job for La Russa -- if he wants one

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Jerry Reinsdorf knew Tony La Russa was managing his last game, so he made a trip to Busch Stadium for Game 7 of the World Series. He watched La Russa win his third title, and Reinsdorf said it made him as happy as he felt when the Sox won it in 2005.

La Russa's surprising retirement announcement Monday led to speculation that he might return to the Sox, who fired him in 1986, as an adviser.

"With his and Jerry's relationship, I'm sure there would be a position over here for whatever he wanted to do,'' a White Sox management source said Monday. "You can never have too many good baseball people around.''

Reinsdorf still regrets firing La Russa, who said if he stays in baseball it would be with an owner he knows.

"I think it would have to be for an owner I know, like Reinsdorf, the Haas [Oakland A's] family, the people [in St. Louis],'' La Russa said. "Those are the owners I've known, the ones I'd want to make happy.''

"Tony La Russa certainly left his mark on the game of baseball,'' Reinsdorf said in a statement Monday. "His brilliance is his legacy. One of two managers to win a World Series in each league, six pennants, it says a lot about the man that he wasn't just going to stick around to break records.

"Some managers are great at running a game. Some are great from the ninth inning until the first inning. Tony was rare. He truly was great at both. I don't think anyone has won more often with teams expected to do far less."

"Tony is one of the few people I know who would do something for a friend even if it was bad for him personally. It's a measure of the man that we fired him and remained friends."

"I knew Friday night was his last game, and I wanted to be there for it. Like a father who gets more enjoyment out of seeing his children succeed, I was as happy for him Friday night as I was when we won in 2005."

La Russa will likely wait until spring to decide if he wants to remain in baseball.

White Sox exercise option on right-hander Jason Frasor

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The White Sox exercised their club option on 34-year-old right-handed reliever Jason Frasor on Monday. The graduate of Oak Forest High School and Southern Illinois University came to the Sox from the Toronto Blue Jays along with right-hander Zach Stewart in a three way trade on July 27 that moved right-hander Edwin Jackson to the Cardinals and third baseman Mark Teahen to Toronto.

Frasor will earn a base salary of $3.75 million in 2012. Frasor's performance in 20 games for the Sox was below his career norm. He was 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA for the Sox, and 3-3 with a 3.60 overall in 2011. His career ERA is 3.74.

Frasor had expressed a desire to stay with the Sox during the season.

White Sox name Manto, McEwing and Parent to coaching staff

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The White Sox named Joe McEwing, Mark Parent and Jeff Manto as coaches on first-year manager Robin Ventura's staff on Monday.

McEwing, 39, who managed at AAA Charlotte this past season, replaces Jeff Cox as the Sox third-base coach. Parent, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies' AA team at Reading, Pa., will be Ventura's bench coach. And Manto, 47, a former hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, replaces Greg Walker in that position for the Sox after serving as the Sox' minor league hitting instructor the last four seasons.

Pitching coach Don Cooper, who signed a four-year extension at the end of the season; first-base coach Harold Baines, bullpen coach Juan Nieves, bullpen catcher Mark Salas and coach Mike Gellinger are back from former manager Ozzie Guillen's coaching staff.

Like Ventura, Parent and McEwing are former major league players who have not coached or managed in the majors. Because Ventura hasn't managed, most observers believed Ventura would have an experienced manager as his bench coach.

Minor league veteran Mike Spidale, a former White Sox draft pick, played for Parent, 50, at Reading this past season.

"I wouldn't say anyone was intimidated by him but he can be intimidating if he needs to be,'' Spidale said. "He's a big guy, about 6-5. If he says something you're going to listen -- he commands respect. At the same time, he knows how to keep the mood loose in the clubhouse. After a tough loss he'd come in and say something funny, hang with us to let us know, 'hey I'm with you guys, way to battle.' ''

White Sox Buehrle files for free agency

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Mark Buehrle was among among four White Sox who filed for free agency on Sunday.

The Sox have exclusive negotiating rights with the 32-year-old Buehrle until Wednesday at 11 p.m. With a 3.83 career ERA with 161 wins and 11 consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings, 30 starts and 10 wins, Buehrle figues to be one of the most sought-after free-agent left-handers along with the Yankees' CC Sabathia and the Rangers' C.J. Wilson.

Outfielder Juan Pierre, infielder Omar Vizquel and catcher Ramon Castro also filed but are not expected to be re-signed by the Sox. Buehrle, a fan favorite and one of three remaining Sox from the 2005 World Series championship team, might not be in the Sox' payroll-trimming plans as well, although the Sox reportedy are willing to offer a two-year contract. Their offer may hinge on a number of factors, including whether they trade lefty John Danks and what other teams are willing to give Buehrle in the open market. Buehrle is coming off a four-year, $56 million contract.

Sox GM Williams: We'll trade for major-league ready players only

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White Sox general manager Ken Williams talked on AM-1000 on Saturday morning. He said he won't be in a "shopping mode" this offseason but suggested he could become a power shopper if he can get a return on his movable pieces. Williams didn't name names, but outfielder Carlos Quentin and pitchers Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Matt Thornton have contracts that allow the Sox GM to shop them around.

Here's what Williams had to say on the subject:

"Everyone I've heard speak on it is right. we have talented people, and we did not achieve what we wanted to based on some of those talented people not performing. But we're in a position where we have to look at the future. So I will not be in shopping mode -- I'll be listening to see what the interest is in some of our players. Quite frankly, I don't expect people to try to blow our doors down for some of our guys who had down years. Their value is going to be down a little bit.

"So what we have to do is weigh whatever they're offering up against our chances are for the next season.
Because if we're going to move our valuable pieces it's going to be for major league ready talent so they can grow with this nice nucleus in place with [Dayan] Viciedo, [Tyler] Flowers, [Alejandro] De Aza, [Brent] Morel. And have to get [Gordon] Beckham back. We have a nice young, kind of youthful movement. Those players [coming in trades] would have to fit into that. Not A-ball players, AA type. They would have to be major-league ready and potential impact players. Will that happen? I don't know, that's why you go to the winter meetings [in early December] and you see what other teams would like to offer you. But I think shopping our guys is something we're not going to be doing.''

"As long as I am in the chair we will be as aggressive as we can possibly be. If it turns out that we don't believe that we can reasonably expect the talent we have to compete for a championship, we might have to dial it back and... move today's talent for tomorrow's talent to extend a longer run for us in the future. But none of that has been determined yet until we get a gauge on what other teams feel about our players.''

Williams also said he will talk to Adam Dunn after his $56 million free-agent disappointment has more time away from baseball.

"I've got a great idea or two, and that is going to be for Adam and I to discuss privately,'' Williams said. "And I haven't got to that point yet. He needed a break.

"If I had answers, we would have taken care of that in May, June or July. I don't have the answers for it. I have talked to other general managers, psychologists, a lot of different people. Nobody has the answers. The guy is one of the most prolific power hitters in the game for the last decade.''

In Hahn, Angels' gain would be Sox' loss

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If White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn gets the GM job with the Los Angeles Angels, a sizable void will be left alongside Sox GM Ken Williams in the Sox front office.

Widely regarded as one of baseball's top GM prospects, Hahn's strong suit is negotiating player contracts. Before joining the Sox 12 seasons ago, Hahn spent two years as an associate at California-based sports agency Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn. He is known to have a good rapport with agents, and might be just the man Angels owner Arte Friedman is looking for.

"Arte is looking for a guy who is buddy-buddy with the agents who can do that kind of stuff,'' a major-league source said. "That's Hahn's forte.''

Rays GM Andrew Friedman met with Moreno this week and was said to be Moreno's top choice, but a source told FOX Sports that Friedman "is not going.'' Hahn and MLB vice president for baseball operations Kim Ng, a former assistant GM with the Yankees and Dodgers who would be baseball's first female GM, are the top two candidates according to one source. Diamondbacks executive Jerry Dipoto, Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and Yankees senior director of pro personnel Billy Eppler are also expected to be interviewed.

A Winnetka native, Glencoe resident and father of two, Hahn is comfortable in Chicago. Travel is limited for an assistant GM, which is a plus. If Hahn waits around, he could be in line to the be the next Sox GM. Williams' contract is up after the season, and if the Sox endure another flop in 2012, it's not out of the question that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf hands the reins to Hahn.

Reinsdorf could remove the risk of losing Hahn by bumping Williams up and making Hahn the GM now.

White Sox GM prefers "retooling" to "rebuilding"

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Ken Williams has always been a ''go-for-it" general manager. Maybe that's why it was so difficult for him to utter the "R" word the day Robin Ventura was formally introduced as manager of the White Sox on Tuesday.

"If you're talking about rebuilding, the answer to the question is no,'' Williams said when asked about the direction the team is headed after it flopped with an all-time high $127 million payroll. "If we have to retool a little bit, well the answer to the question is 'maybe.' Let's see what's available out there through the winter discussions and we'll make that determination as we go along. We very well, with all the names you mentioned could be out there come spring training. But until we have these conversations, I have no idea.''

We mentioned to Williams the names John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin, who are movable pieces with value who could bring quality, younger players in return as rebuilding blocks. Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski were brought up, too. They would have to agree to a trade. Konerko, while pledging his allegiance to the Sox, didn't rule out the possibility when I asked him the other day.

"Well, over the course of the 10 or 11 years, the one thing I have learned first and foremost is to never say never,'' Williams said. "But in many cases I can say very, very unlikely that we would head down that extreme of a direction.''

Under Williams, the Sox have consistently fielded teams going into the season which had a chance to contend. One of them won a World Series in 2005. But Ventura, with no experience at the helm, does not fit the mold of the manager of a team that is "going for it."

"You know if I keep talking to Robin Ventura, yeah I'm going to feel a little more confident in the roster that we have and the young players and the veteran players and what we can reasonably expect,'' Williams said. "But again, I'm fresh off the most disappointing season in the last 11 years for me personally and for us as an organization. So right now I have to take a little bit of time to see the bigger picture and the bigger picture is we're pretty happy with the leadership we have in place and a coaching staff that I think will be.''

The Sox gave $2.7 million to players drafted this season, the smallest amount in baseball. They are last in baseball over the last three years in investing in the draft. Rebuilding or re-tooling will require more money invested in the draft, and Williams said he doesn't know if it will happen.

"Don't know yet,'' he said. "Depends on what the player payroll is going to be. We've stretched ourselves over the last number of years.''

Whether Mark Buehrle is brought back remains to be seen. It would appear to be a long shot, but the left-hander -- one of three Sox remaining with Pierzynski and Konerko from the 2005 team -- hasn't been ruled out completely, Williams said.

"We'll get to the player matters when we can," Williams said. "But it's not dissimilar to the Konerko situation last year. The market has to tell us what he's going to command, and we'll look into it then to see if it fits into our planning and budget.

"Listen, whenever it is when Mark Buehrle leaves, you're going to have a void. I'm not just talking about the player standpoint, but who he is, what he is -- all the peripheral things. You can't ask for a better guy, performance-wise and non-performance wise."

Williams considered Konerko as manager

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Perhaps the most stunning news to emerge from the White Sox' press conference introducing Robin Ventura as manager was general manager's Ken Williams' revelation that he considered Paul Konerko as a player-manager candidate.

It never got to a point where Williams asked Konerko about the possibility.

"Well, it was considered long enough for me to realize that Paul is a very cerebral person and he would probably drive himself nuts right now playing and managing at the same time,'' Williams said Tuesday. "But that's the kind of respect I have for him that yeah, I did consider it. Then I thought I think I would rather him be focused more on hitting third or fourth in the lineup and driving in 100 runs rather than trying to worry about 25 other guys in addition to it. We are trying to win.''

Konerko, the No. 2 White Sox all time in home runs and RBI, has two years left on what could be his last contract.

"I believe Paul Konerko, if he wants to, can ultimately run a Major League club and would be able to do so as soon as he steps off the field,'' Williams said. "Why do I believe that? Because I spent the last 11 years talking to him about baseball. And when you talk about that in that fashion and does it fit in our equation, we have a situation here where it's a unique situation where there is scrutiny, there is the microscope and a person has to be able to deal with some of the peripheral things so that he can also maintain himself as a strong individual to lead 25 guys.''

Ventura formally introduced as White Sox manager

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Robin Ventura, who was formally introduced as the 39th manager of the White Sox on Tuesday, is exactly as you see him.

Down to earth, centered and steady. And not a single word bleeped out of your evening sportscast.

No bleeps, no tweets, and no looks of angst on the White Sox public relations staff.

As for his style of managing, no one knows because Ventura has not managed or coached at any level. What his players can expect from the two-time all-star, Ventura said, is a straight-forward and honest dude.

"Just being truthful, being upfront, honest and fair, really," Ventura said. "I think everybody's accountable and from being a player, guys like that. Guys know what to expect, they like that. As a manager, I don't change day-to-day, and I think that'd be part of the draw. I'm pretty much the same every day, and they'll know what to expect.''

Asked if he has the cure for what ailed Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham during their poor 2011 seasons, Ventura said knows what the the first step is. And they're all taking it now.

"Well, I think for right now they need a break," Ventura said. "The mental grind of baseball is probably the toughest of of any sport because it's daily. It's daunting, especially if you get yourself in a hole. I don't think it's anything I can do right away.

"For them, you come to spring training and feel fresh. You feel different as a player every year as a player when you go to spring training. There's no guarantee that any guy on our team is going to have a better or worse year than last year."

Ventura was an off-the-radar pick by general manager Ken Williams, who was thinking outside the box all the way. He revealed Tuesday that he thought about asking Paul Konerko to be a player-manager. But that's as far as it went.

Williams said the rest of Ventura's coaching staff will be announced soon. He also said that first-base coach Harold Baines will get more involved with hitters, particularly on the mental side.

Here are exerpts of what Ventura had to say Tuesday.

On whether he talked to Sox players: : "I talked to Paul and then have done a little phone tag with a couple of other ones. That will eventually happen but it's just nice to get in contact with them and just talk to them.

On the best piece of advice he received since hired:

"The best piece of advice is to be yourself. That's going to be pretty simple for me."

On what he's learned from former managers:

"For me, I think you take something from every guy you play with, every guy that coached you and managed you. I think everybody has that. I've played for a lot of great managers and I plan on - I don't know if it's stealing - but it's using a lot of their styles and philosophies and I think that makes me confident."

On being a good cop/bad cop:

"Just being truthful, being upfront, honest and fair, really. I think everybody's accountable and as being a player, guys like that. Guys know what to expect, they like that. As a manager I don't change day to day and I think that'd be part of the draw. I'm pretty much the same every day and they'll know what to expect.

On what he can do to fix Dunn, Rios and Beckham:

"Well I think for right now they need a break. The mental grind of baseball is probably the toughest out of any sport because it's daily, it's daunting especially if you get yourself in a hole. I don't think it's anything I can do right away. For them, you come to Spring Training and feel fresh. You feel different as a player every year as a player when you go to spring training. There's no guarantee that any guy on our team is going to have a better or worse year than last year. We're hoping everybody has a great year and that's what we're counting on."

On Williams "interviewing" him as a player:

"As a player, it's hard to sit there and think you're going to be a manager back when you're five years in the league.

"Granted I don't have that coaching or managerial experience officially but I think later in my career that was something that was evident that I felt I could do it and I felt confident that I could do it.''

On being an instructing manager:

"I would instruct on things that I'm stronger at. Obviously when we fill the staff there's going to be guys that are stronger in certain areas of the game and I'm going to let them do that.

"I think third base and maybe a little bit of second. Probably with Brent more than anyone else if he needs it. He had a great end of the year and we're going to have to play that by ear. But I think everybody instructs in one way or the other and we're just going to have wait and see in spring how that all comes out.''

On handling different personalities:

"Well I played for a lot of different personalities and got along with a lot of different people and become friends with a lot of people from the outside they look at my personality andtheir personality and not think that we would get along. It's finding a way to have common ground. Personalities are great on teams. As long as they're a good teammate, we're going to get along great as long as they're going toward a common goal. When it's about yourself there's going to be times for discussion.''

White Sox coaching staff all but set

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Daryl Van Schouwen

With no experience on his resume, Robin Ventura will be formally introduced as manager of the White Sox at a press conference Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field. With no major-league coaching experience, Mark Parent and "Super Joe" McEwing are expected to be named to two of the most important positions on Ventura's staff.

Parent, 50, a manager for the Philadelphia Phillies' AA team in Reading, Pa., would be Ventura's right-hand man as bench coach, a source said. McEwing, an energetic 38-year old who probably received consideration from general manager Ken Williams for the manager's job, will coach third base. McEwing managed the Sox AAA team at Charlotte this season.

Jeff Manto, the organization's roving hitting instructor, is believed to be the leading candidate to replace Greg Walker as hitting coach. Manto has major-league experience, as the Pittsburgh Pirates' hitting coach in 2006 and '07.

Manto was a .230 hitter with 31 homers and 97 RBI in parts of nine big-league seasons. Four of his homers came on consecutive at-bats, which tied a major league record.

AAA hitting coach Tim Laker has also been considered for the hitting coach job.

Ventura played with McEwing, a nine-year career utility man, on the New York Mets in 2000 and '01. He never played with Parent, a 13-year backup catcher in the majors. The two shared the same agent as players.

Manto and McEwing are both from the small town of Bristol, Pa.

Cooper: No decisions on White Sox Sale's role just yet

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White Sox general manager Ken Williams said this week that left-hander Chris Sale would be given every opportunity to be a starter next season. And Sale, who was drafted in the first round as a projected starter, appears too valuable to stay in the bullpen -- unless the Sox decide to make him a closer.

But Sox pitching coach Don Cooper cautioned against penciling Sale into the rotation just yet.

"I haven't heard that officially because we haven't sat down as an organization, as staff, as coaches,'' Cooper said Tuesday. "We haven't talked about the team as an organization and determined Chris Sale's role for next year.

"My guess is that's next - sit down with [the new] manager and we'll talk about the team. We all have to take a step back, sleep on a few things, take the emotion out of it and as intelligently as we can and set things up.''

The Sox have other rotation question marks. Will Mark Buehrle re-sign? Will John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd be traded? There is no question that Sale has a big upside. Asked about Sale's role in 2012 after the final game of the season -- in which Sale blew a save in an opportunity to save games on consecutive days -- Cooper was noncommittal.

"I see him right now as a top-flight first-year guy in the bullpen who is a bad son of a gun,'' Cooper said. "This guy is tough. He can pitch. He has heart, smarts, [guts]. He's got everything you want in a pitcher. And if we leave him alone, my guess is he's going to continue that.

"The other option do we decide as an organization to start him. Is that the best thing next year for him for his career to keep going? That's where we haven't had the discussions yet. That's where Chris Sale is right this second. He's good.

"I think I said it yesterday and said it a lot. You ask a lot of hitters that come to the plate, lefties and righties, they say they don't like this guy. He has a nice future ahead of himself for sure. The challenges ahead are all the challenges I mentioned a minute ago. Come ready, in the best physical and mental shape of his life. That decision, he'll know what he's doing prior to when he gets to spring training.''

It's not like the conditioning is going to change a whole lot. Getting into top shape is top shape, starting or relieving. We'll have to wait and see on that one. Chris Sale had himself a fine season regardless of what happened today.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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