Robin Ventura is drastically different from Ozzie Guillen, but Camp Ventura isn’t much different from Camp Guillen.
Oh, it has a new feel and altered schedules. Ventura is more hands-on during morning drills, spending more time on the field than in the golf cart. He also spends less time in the afternoon on the golf course. In fact, he’s often the last one off the field.
Sox workdays are running about a half-hour longer, and there’s more early work on many days. There’s a different vibe because even the veterans know they’re making first impressions on Ventura and his coaches.
‘‘Every time you bring in a new manager, everyone is on edge because you start with new people and you want to prove you’re worthy of playing,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
For pitchers, camp is business as usual.
‘‘The spring has gone very smoothly,” Pierzynski said. ‘‘It’s been run very well – not that the other regime didn’t run it just as well. It’s pretty much been the same thing. Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] is in charge of the pitching, which I spend most of my time with. And it’s been handled the same.”
Working on it
Sox catchers threw out 37 runners last season and allowed 135 stolen bases, which ranked last in the American League. Opponents stole 94 bases in 118 attempts (80 percent) with Pierzynski (below) catching. Of the 24 who were caught, 11 were on pickoffs by pitchers. Pierzynski threw out 13 runners, and Sox catchers won’t have Mark Buehrle around to shut down stolen-base threats for them.
Throwing never has been Pierzynski’s strong suit, and he won’t change overnight at age 35. But he’s working with bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher, on footwork and other adjustments.
‘‘I’m always looking to learn,” Pierzynski said. ‘‘I’m always looking to get better. [Parent] caught in the big leagues for a long time and knows the position very well. We’ve talked about a lot of different situations, and he’s been very positive. That’s all you can ask for.”
A greater emphasis on holding runners is evident this spring. The work with the new staff has been ‘‘very smooth,” Pierzynski said.
Let the games begin
Ventura will write out his first lineup card Monday, when the Sox open Cactus League play against the Dodgers. Right-hander Philip Humber (right) will start. After that, John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Chris Sale will follow in the expected order they figure to go during the regular season. It’s not official, but Danks is expected to pitch on Opening Day against the Rangers.
Preparing to win
Guillen’s only winning record during spring training came in his first season (2004). After that, he didn’t seem to care about wins and losses. Ventura says he will try to win games, especially as the regular season approaches, to get the team into the habit of winning. The Sox’ bad spring last year carried over into a bad April, but it hasn’t always worked out that way.
Sox’ Cactus League records under Guillen
Sox’ records in March-April under Guillen
Game time is the best time to audition, and three bullpen spots and the 25th man are open. Shortstops Ozzie Martinez (acquired from the Marlins in the trade for Guillen) and Eduardo Escobar are in the mix, along with left-handed-hitting corner infielders Dan Johnson and Dallas McPherson and anyone else (Jim Gallagher?) who might step up.
After left-handers Matt Thornton and Will Ohman and right-handers Jesse Crain and Addison Reed, there’s a long list of candidates to fill out the bullpen. We’ll throw out four candidates from each side: right-handers Zach Stewart, Dylan Axelrod, Gregory Infante and Brian Bruney and left-handers Hector Santiago, Charlie Leesman, Donnie Veal and Pedro Hernandez.