MINNEAPOLIS — Now in the last month of the last year of his contract, Robin Ventura could be nearing the end of his managerial career. He has said he wants to return, but the Sox haven’t had a winning season under Ventura since his first in 2012, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if this turns into his last.
General manager Rick Hahn hasn’t tipped his hand on which way the front office is leaning, saying only the manager and coaching staff will be addressed after the season.
“It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get something going this year to take care of business,’’ third baseman Todd Frazier said. “As great of a manager as he is, it would have been nice for him.’’
There wasn’t much that was nice about the Sox’ latest lost to an AL Central team, a 11-3 beating Saturday night from the last-place Minnesota Twins. Right-hander James Shields gave up three more home runs as the Twins rolled to an 11-2 lead after three innings, pushing across eight runs in the third.
A former Sox star who played 10 of his 16 major league seasons on the South Side, Ventura is well-liked and respected by his players.
“When you understand the game and you make it fun like that, it’s great to play behind him, [he’s] great to play for,’’ Frazier said.
The Sox have ranked near the bottom of the league in offense and have been saddled by a struggling bullpen. To Ventura and his staff’s credit, player effort hasn’t been an issue. For the most part, they’ve grinded through games till the last out.
“That’s the biggest thing, you want to reach them in a way that they go out and play hard,’’ Ventura said. “Results are one thing, but how you come to the ballpark and how you prepare … the biggest thing is they go out and play hard. And that’s what they’ve done.’’
It takes more than effort and preparation to win, and the front office might have a tough time selling the status quo to a disgruntled fan base.
“We realize the results might not be what we want,’’ Ventura said. “But they play hard. I know that.’’
And Ventura knows he hasn’t batted a thousand, either.
“You’re not human if there’s not some way you think you could have done better,’’ he said.
Shields was better in his last start in Detroit (two runs over six innings) but reverted to the form of the previous five in which he gave up 12 homers and suffered four losses.
His back “grabbed” him a little before the game, he said, and during the third inning trainer Herm Schneider and Ventura came out to check on him.
“I wasn’t feeling too hot before the game, but once the game started getting going, I was fine,’’ Shields said. “Then it just kind of grabbed me in the last inning.’’
Twins homers by Brian Dozier leading off the first, Byron Buxton’s (439 feet) in the second and Trevor Plouffe’s (435 feet) raised Shields’ total to 35 this season, including 26 for the Sox since Hahn acquired him in June to supposedly strengthen Ventura’s starting rotation. Shields, who has two years left on his contract, saw his ERA with the Sox grow to a hefty 7.50.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,’’ he said.
Jacob Turner relieved Shields with one out in the third and gave up five runs on six hits, although none of the runs were earned because of a Frazier throw which Jose Abreu couldn’t scoop. Frazier was charged with an error.
After Turner left, Michael Ynoa (2 1/3 innings), Juan Minaya (two) and Tommy Kahnle (one) combined for scoreless relief, walking one and teaming for eight strikeouts.
The Sox (64-71) have lost 30 of their last 43 games in the AL Central.