Winter Meetings interview with Robin Ventura

Q. Robin, you guys got a starter today officially. A closer in a couple of days. How much does that help you considering what you went through last year?

ROBIN VENTURA: It helps everybody, as far as how you assess your team following the season and what you feel like you need to improve on and things that you target.

I think Rick's done a great job and the staff's done a great job of identifying it and being able to go out there. It's a gutsy move. You're giving up some good players to go get a guy like Jeff. And I think it just solidifies that top part of the rotation with Chris and Jose that you're formidable.

You look around at our division, and you see the starting pitchers out there of what it takes to make it in your division of facing them all the time. And we feel like that's something we had to do.

Q. Rick laid out this whole reshaping process, and then suddenly it seemed to take a pretty big jump and wanting to contend in '15. Were you surprised at the direction it was going, when you were going after the regular closer?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think last year at this time it was a bit different. There would have been no way to do it last year. But you start making steps where you make a trade. We had the Eaton trade. You end of having the Peavy trade, that you get after Avisail out of that. And there are pieces in there that you improve over the course of the year.

Even though it's not what we would have liked, we obviously wanted to win more games. But you start looking at the pieces that are there and things that can help you and guys that come up through the minor leagues are pieces that you can use to go get somebody like Jeff. And I think that's part of what's exciting about being here and being able to bring a guy like Jeff on to our team.

Q. How long can you, as an organization, wait for Viciedo to catch up? Do you have to address the left field situation, along with Rick and the rest of the organization?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think that's part of you don't necessarily close up shop and think you're done doing it. You still have guys that are here working and listening and asking questions. And I think that's part of being here and not feeling like you're totally done. I think you like the steps that have been taken so far. But you don't there are issues and some things that we have that hopefully we can have an answer to.

Q. Going back to Jeff, what do you know about his makeup? He seems to be a pretty laid back guy. But on the field he's a competitor. He's from California, do you relate to that?

ROBIN VENTURA: Do I take offense at that? You see what he is on the field. A great competitor, playing against him, playing football and those things, you see what it is, and all reports of people that have played with him, guys that I've talked to just love that makeup.

He'll be a leader, I think that's part of bringing a guy in, is you want good makeup guys that are also very good players. I heard he's not from California.

Q. It only seems like it. Indiana?

ROBIN VENTURA: Indiana? He's excited. I think he's excited to come back. I think anybody that grows up rooting for a certain team, when you get a chance to play for them, there's a certain excitement that comes with that, and he has that feeling.

Q. How much have you gotten to see Robinson, what do you like about him?

ROBIN VENTURA: What do I like about him? From what I've seen he's a competitor, and he's closed in the toughest place to close in. I think he's done it very well. And I heard the reports, but if you get a chance to get somebody like that, you know, it's obviously a feather in your cap and just makes your bullpen a lot better. And I think we've had issues last year of being able to close out games. And I think if you can get somebody like David it makes you better, it pushes everybody down a little bit, and for us that would be a good thing.

Q. I know it's only on paper, at what point do you say we're right there with Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, to win this year?

ROBIN VENTURA: Well, you continue to try to improve. I think that's the biggest thing about being here. And you're able to talk with different teams and see what they're trying to do.

But you are improving to a point, and you see what's there, what Detroit's done the last few years, and Kansas City going to the World Series, Cleveland's been a good club for the last couple of years. You're either going to try to improve or you're not. I think we're improving to be in that discussion.

Q. What impression did Michael Johnson make on you in Spring Training and where does he fit in the mix at second base?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think he's going to come in fighting for a job. That's the plan right now.

Mike is an exciting player, very fast, good at bats, smart player. They're both smart players, they're both going to have an opportunity.

Q. You don't have a favorite?

ROBIN VENTURA: They're both going to have an opportunity, an equal opportunity.

Q. Did you ever think of moving Gillaspie part time over to --

ROBIN VENTURA: I don't think so. He's more of a third baseman. With those two being over there, you have a better chance of having them play second base. I don't think Conor would be suited going over there.

Q. When the Robertson process started, were you encouraged that you were going to get him?

ROBIN VENTURA: I don't know if you're encouraged. You hear it. You know the dialogue is going on, but at the end you don't necessarily see too many guys leaving the Yankees.

So I think that's you don't necessarily get your hopes up to a point where you think things like that are going to happen. I think you're optimistic, but you're cautious, too.

Q. So many young guys and the injuries, that was as big a challenge as anybody, wasn't it?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, it's usually the hardest thing, anyway. I think with the amount of youth that we had out there and guys trying to be put in different positions -- in different roles and things that they weren't necessarily comfortable with at first. Everybody tried it. We tried plenty of guys in different spots.

It's just a tough -- it's a tough thing to do, especially with guys that are young. And I think when they fail it's a different when a veteran fails, they can bounce back easier.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)

ROBIN VENTURA: It would be big. It would be big.

Q. Did you look at Rodon starting out in the bullpen, do you like him as a starter?

ROBIN VENTURA: I haven't seen him, you know, in person yet. But I think for all indications of what he can do when he gets to Spring Training, from there depending on what we have, when we get into Spring Training, it is a possibility. He could do the same thing that has been done with Sale and Buehrle, I believe did the same thing. We have had a track record of having guys going into the bullpen and starting.

Q. Davidson had a rough year, after a real good Spring Training. He's kind of been put on the background. Do you see him playing a role as soon as '15 for you guys?

ROBIN VENTURA: Yeah, he's a good player. Part of it you come to a new place and you start off a little rough and you try to make up for it. And different things can happen. I don't want to put this one year on him, as though this is how you're going to get ranked. Again, he's coming in competing just like everybody else is. But I think for him to be able to bounce back would be a big plus for him. You're not going to label him that's what he is for the rest of his career.

Q. All of your needs have been addressed, except maybe defense. Is that something you hoped is paid attention to or do you have the guys that can improve that?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think we have the guys that can improve that. I think we can get better at that. When guys get a little more experience and understand how to play certain positions. Conor is improving. I think Jose with another year of playing first base, and understand the speed of the game. I feel will be better. We'll be better.

Q. (INAUDIBLE) can you tell me about his dedication?

ROBIN VENTURA: It was a mature response for a guy that -- I think there was a lot of promise of him coming into the year of being able to have his first full year in the Big Leagues. And then gets hurt the first week. And his work ethic was outstanding. He was the first guy in every day, when you come into the ballpark. For him to fight back and feel it was important for not only the organization, but for himself, to get back and get on the field and compete, I think it says a lot about him. And a lot of the things that we like about him.

And I think that showed towards the end of the year. Just to be able to get that experience and that time playing is big. Anytime a guy gets hurt you don't want to end the season not getting back on the field.

Q. Seems to have been a hole in the lineup with the No. 2 spot for the last couple of years. Do you have any solutions with the current roster of how you might solve that this year?

ROBIN VENTURA: No. The way it is right now I think it's premature sitting here in December trying to figure out a two hole thing. Of course you're trying to find a way to make that better. But Rick and I aren't going to sit here and beat ourselves over the head trying to figure out the two hole right now. But to put it down on paper is a little premature right now.

We've tried different guys there. It just hasn't seemed to be able to find a fit with it. The way the roster is, you're hoping there's a good fit when you get to Spring Training.

Q. How did your conversation with Jeff go? Anything you told him?

ROBIN VENTURA: It was good. He was excited. I think the fact that he grew up close to the stadium. He grew up a White Sox fan is a big deal. I understand that. I understand how when you get a chance to play for the team you root for it's exciting. He wants to stay in Chicago, and that was important to him. And being able to get a chance like this is exciting. But it's exciting for us, too, to have somebody of his caliber come and be part of our pitching staff is great. And we're excited. I think everybody is excited about that.

Q. Is that harder to do than you may realize to play for the team you used to like. Is there some kind of added inner pressure?

ROBIN VENTURA: I don't know if there's inner pressure, there's probably more tickets he's got to leave, if anything. Hopefully that's not an issue. I think having already played on the other side of town, he knows what he's dealing with.

Q. Did he tell you how he used to watch you play when he was a little boy?

ROBIN VENTURA: No, no, he didn't. Was I his favorite player?

Q. You were most people's.

ROBIN VENTURA: Probably not. Hopefully he was shooting higher.

Q. You were that quiet guy from Indiana?

ROBIN VENTURA: I was not from Indiana.

Q. Is there more pressure on you now that you have a team that people are going to have a lot of expectations from?

ROBIN VENTURA: Hopefully. That would be fine. I hope so.

Q. Kevin Cash was just hired to manage the Rays with no experience.

ROBIN VENTURA: I can't believe it. I can't believe it.

Q. Shocker, exactly, right? What were the biggest challenges for you and what advice did you get or have for him?

ROBIN VENTURA: I think the biggest challenges are just probably people are skeptical of it. I think even with Kevin everybody knows his background, his qualifications as far as just baseball knowledge and things like that. There are challenges to it.

I think we were a little bit younger than you would think of normal managers, but being able to deal with guys that aren't that much younger than you, he's pretty close to his playing days, so that becomes -- I don't know if it's an issue more than it is a dance that you have with understanding them and being able to be assertive. But I think he understands enough of it that he's going to be fine. I think you're excited to see a guy like that get a job.

Q. Was there any specific advice anybody gave you that really helped?

ROBIN VENTURA: If you have good players it usually helps. A lot of guys say that. (Laughter.)