NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Robin Ventura is already looking forward to 2013, not that he doesn't need more time to rest up after his first season as White Sox manager.
Ventura, who finished third in American League manager of the year voting after keeping his team in first place in the AL Central for 117 days before it faded in late September, said he expects to be better at his job. His view of his team's settling for 85 wins and second place when a division title was within reach?
"It's baseball,'' he said during his meeting with media on Tuesday at baseball's Winter Meetings. "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 is everybody else. Did you choke? Yeah, you can say it in a way that if you don't win you choke anyway. But 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 and if we did score, we didn't pitch well that particular night. That's baseball. The effort was there. Being prepared and all those other things were there, it just didn't happen.''
General manager Rick Hahn said Ventura, who was hired as Ozzie Guillen's replacement with no experience, exceeded expectations.
"We knew he had the potential to grow into one of the finer managers in the league and I think he got there a lot more quickly than we even anticipated,'' Hahn said. "Whether it be communicating with the players to setting the tone to focus on what helps us win that night's game to really his in-game management strategy to put his players in position to succeed. He was fantastic for us and we're looking forward to him being a veteran manager next year.''
Ventura downplayed the kudos.
"I don't see it as I was good at it,'' Ventura said. "I can get better. That's hopefully what happens.
"I think any time you go into something, you think you know it all or are done learning, you're going backwards. Getting better with in-game stuff, in-between game stuff and even after game stuff with you guys [media] would hopefully I get better at.
"I think for the most part I let [players] play. Early on, doing some bunting or things like that. But I 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.''
Ventura plans on emphasizing situational at-bats at spring training, especially with runners on third base.
"For us, 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,'' he said. "I don't know if you start spring having a drill being a part of 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 in or moving guys along. Situation stuff is going to be more put into play in spring training as far as a drill or playing games.''
Hahn said he hopes to give Ventura a more flexible roster that would give him the wherewithal to be a better in-game manager.
"Perhaps this year we'll give him a roster that has a little more flexibility, which will be a challenge for him to put the guys in the right position, to get the most out of the player who has some positional flexibility or having more lineup options on a given day based on who we're facing,'' Hahn said. "Part of that is incumbent on us.''
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12, earlier than usual because of the World Baseball Classic.
"I am looking forward to it but you don't want to start looking forward to it in December and have to wait for it,'' Ventura said. "When it gets here we'll be ready to go but it's nice being home with the family too.
"[Managing] is not as fun as playing. But it's pretty close.''