Ventura Playing His Cards Right Thus Far

20140124_mm_soxfest0240Throughout the two past seasons that featured 99 and 89 losses, respectively, White Sox manager Robin Ventura made his way into the doghouse of many Sox fans. The last two years have been filled with ill-advised pitching changes and questionable defensive alignments among multiple other in-game blunders.

But this year has been a little bit different for the 4th year skipper despite the team’s 5-7 record though 12 games. In Ventura’s defense, he did not have much to work with in the last couple years. He had a talented roster his first year in 2012 and almost led the team to a division title. After two rebuilding seasons, the team is now equipped with a roster that many think can contend for a playoff spot.

Through the first two weeks of the 2015 campaign, I have found myself questioning Ventura’s mangerial decisions far less than I did in 2013 and 2014. Granted, this season has a long way to go; but thus far, he has done a good job.

One example of Ventura’s growth as a manager is how he has hanlded the team’s infield. In past years, it appeard that he felt obliged to award veterans with playing time because of their experience and salary.

In 2013, Ventura continued to pencil Jeff Keppinger into the everyday lineup. Keppinger had an awful season that year. His average was down some 70 points from the previous season. He was banged up. He was immobile. At times, he appeared disinterested. Nevertheless, he trotted out to the field with the other 8 starters just about every day.

In 2014, it was the same case with Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza. Neither player really brought anything to the table either offensively or defensively, yet they platooned in left field for most of the season.

This time around, Ventura is playing his cards differently. The players on this year’s team have had to earn their playing time. The Sox spent a decent buck this offseason acquiring veteran infielders Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham, but Ventura has not been awarding them with playing time just because they are on the roster.

It was evident that Beckham needed some sort of change after his first stint with the Sox. Maybe it was a change of scenery. Maybe it was a change of his role on the team. Whatever it was, Beckham appears to suddenly have a breath of fresh air this season and the White Sox infield is the beneficiary. Beckham has proven to be a reliable late-inning defensive replacement for Conor Gillaspie at 3rd base and also a solid pinch hit option should the opposing team bring in a left-handed reliever to face Gillaspie.

Bonifacio, on the other hand, is still searching for his groove in the earlygoings of the season. Importantly enough, he is searching for his groove on the bench; and he isn’t putting up 0 for 4s upon 0 for 4s as he works out his kinks while taking away at bats from other players.

At the end of the day, Ventura has gotten the most out of the ballclub in the first two weeks of the season. Unfortunately, that has only translated to five wins in twelve games. But if he keeps up this effort, things could turn around real fast on the South Side. His handling of the lineup card has been one of the bright spots that have flown under the radar in the slow start to the season.