Konerko says Ventura can make it work
Paul Konerko's first reaction upon hearing Robin Ventura would be his new manager with the Chicago White Sox was the same as most everybody else's.
''I was kind of surprised, more at not that we hired him but because I didn't know that was something he'd want to do,'' Konerko, the team's star first baseman, said Friday, the day after Ventura was hired to replace Ozzie Guillen.
Konerko joined the White Sox in 1999, after Ventura finished a 10-year run as Chicago's third baseman in 1998. Though they just missed being teammates, Konerko said he's gotten to know Ventura a bit over the years at team functions.
And he's convinced that Ventura's lack of managerial experience won't be a hindrance once he gets rolling.
''As far as how a clubhouse runs and all that kinds of stuff, I don't think there is any concern,'' konerko said. ''Robin Ventura has been in a clubhouse most of his whole life. I think most of the older players are looking forward to it as far as conversing with him and picking his brain at what he thinks makes a good team.''
And, if Ventura needs help during the game, he'll be able to delegate, especially with veteran pitching coach Don Cooper returning with a multiyear extension, as well as first base coach Harold Baines.
Ventura's style, once it develops, will almost certainly be different than that of Guillen, the outspoken - often outrageous - skipper who led the team to its first World Series in 88 years in 2005.
Guillen, who had his request for an extension denied, was released from the final year on his contract after eight seasons and will be running the Marlins next season. Guillen also had no managerial experience when he was hired after serving as Florida's third base coach during its World Series championship run in 2003.
Ventura has not been a major league coach, although he was hired in June to be an advisor to player development director Buddy Bell.
Ventura was a popular player with the White Sox before completing his career with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers. He's returning to the organization that drafted him in the first round in 1988.
Konerko characterized the 44-year-old Ventura as an easy person to talk to but added that, from stories he's heard over the years, the new White Sox manager is not afraid to stand up or confront someone. After all, he did charge the mound against Nolan Ryan in 1993.
And he doesn't expect Ventura to be shy about expressing what he feels - even if it's not as in the same outlandish manner as Guillen.
''Just in talking to people who played with him and all that, I think he'll be the kind of guy, like Ozzie, who will call you out on a carpet in front of people and be a little bit more abrasive than everybody thinks,'' Konerko said.
It's still not clear whether the White Sox with change its approach with Ventura as manager and try to slice payroll and use more young players after last year's 79-83 disappointment.
The 35-year-old Konerko, who batted .300 last season with 31 homers and 105 RBIs, has two more seasons left on a three-year, $37.5 million deal. He said he understands if the team decided to go in that direction, adding that Ventura could perhaps help some of the younger players develop.
He also expects Ventura, who was a little apprehensive when first approached about the job by general manager Ken Williams, to have a plan mapped out by spring training.
''Robin is close to the organization. He's been closer the last few months and been involved a little bit more doing some stuff,'' Konerko said. ''I think he knows what he's getting himself into and I think he knows what is going on. ... He's not coming into this blind.''