Once again, Ventura embraces changes, expectations

White Sox manager excited about offseason upgrades after tough '15 campaign

Once again, Ventura embraces changes, expectations

CHICAGO -- The calendar officially has flipped to the holiday season of 2015. But Robin Ventura finds himself pretty much in the same position as last December.

Once again, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has made moves to put his team into the competitive picture for the American League Central at the very least. Ventura embraced those lofty expectations with confidence last offseason, only to have the squad fall short.

But that troublesome campaign hasn't stopped Ventura from being just as excited about what 2016 can hold for the White Sox after the additions of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.

"I'm going with the blanket yes," said Ventura during a Thursday afternoon conference call, when asked if he still liked the challenge of meeting the expectations placed upon this team. "Is that all right?"

Hahn breaks down Frazier trade

The White Sox manager was politely asked to expound. He laughed and went into greater detail.

"Well, I mean, we're improved, definitely," Ventura said. "We're also in the division that has the World Series champion. We know it's a tough division.

"Everyone in that division is getting better and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate, so we're much improved from last year. Just look at the people that we got. And again, you're going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen, because it doesn't happen on paper."

After the 2014 season, the White Sox targeted a bullpen upgrade. The additions of David Robertson, Zach Duke and Dan Jennings pushed the South Siders to seventh in the American League with a 3.67 ERA as a unit in '15.

Improving the offense became the present offseason target, although Hahn and his staff appeared to have met that goal last year by adding Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. The White Sox specifically looked at positions such as catcher, third and second that needed an offensive boost, and Ventura believes those changes have been made for the better.

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"You start seeing the people that you get and you are seeing quality people that are coming to your organization," Ventura said. "We knew offensively we needed to improve some areas. This is one way to do it.

"We are slowly getting there. I don't think you do it all at once."

Frazier, Lawrie and the possibility of Tyler Saladino at shortstop makes for an almost entirely new infield, with Jose Abreu as the first-base holdover. Ventura mentioned that free agent Alexei Ramirez, the team's starting shortstop since '09, wasn't completely out of the picture.

These types of moves put pressure to succeed on Ventura, who is entering his fifth year. Ventura embraces the pressure and the positive changes.

"This is a sign you're trying to improve," Ventura said. "Any time you're giving up some prospects to get somebody like Todd and Brett, you're trying to put your best foot forward for 2016.

"You're not really looking that much further down the road. Definitely when you're adding somebody like Todd Frazier or somebody like Brett Lawrie, you're trying to improve for this year."

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