CLEVELAND -- The White Sox probably stopped counting down the days until the end of the 2013 season somewhere well before this final week. Now they are simply awaiting the end.
But when they begin what they hope is a bounce-back 2014 campaign next February in Arizona, the players have absolutely no doubt that Robin Ventura is the manager to lead them to the postseason promised land.
"It's funny, when we were winning, he was a godsend. Now a year later, people want him out of here," said White Sox starting pitcher John Danks of his manager. "We as a team love having him here. He's a great manager, knows what he's doing, knows baseball. It isn't his fault we stink. He's not throwing the ball, not catching it, not trying to hit it. He's putting us in the right position to win. It's up to us to do it."
"He's just steady. He doesn't change," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko. "The fact that he's held it together with what he's had to witness all year, with the rest of the coaches, I could tell you there probably are a lot of staffs and managers that this could have been really bad with what happened. But hopefully this is the last time he has to go through something like this."
Managers such as John Farrell in Boston and Terry Francona with the Indians clearly have made a difference in their new environs. Ventura looked to have the same effect on the 2012 White Sox, who topped the American League Central for 117 days.
As Konerko pointed out, there are some teams where it doesn't matter who manages -- both on the positive or negative side. A team can just take off from the start, or be the polar opposite like the 2013 White Sox. He quickly added that Ventura and his staff never really had a chance this season.
"We never really got to any point in the season where it felt like the staff could implement stuff they wanted to do," Konerko said. "We never really got it going. The work was there. Guys worked early. There's a lot of early work. There's a lot of early ground balls. All that kind of stuff.
"From a competitive standpoint, I feel bad that as a team we really didn't let those guys kind of enjoy being a manager or being coaches because we were never in it. We were out of it the whole way. It's tough."
Reed using walk-off homer as learning experience
CLEVELAND -- When Jason Giambi connected on Addison Reed's poorly located slider for Tuesday night's thrilling walk-off winner, the White Sox closer had one thought cross his mind.
"Hopefully a bird is flying by and it hits the bird and stays in the park," said a smiling Reed before Wednesday's game. "Once it goes in the air and you know it's gone, there's pretty much nothing you can do except for walk off the field and just come in here.
"I mean, there's no need to stay out there and do anything. Just come in here and just kind of learn from your mistake. Make it work better for next time."
Reed has thrown 70 1/3 innings this season over 67 games and will be available for the remaining five games, including Wednesday's road finale. He stresses the point of feeling fine on the mound, simply pointing to the right pitch in the wrong spot to Giambi.
In fact, the learning experience for the second-year closer with 39 saves was that he didn't really need to throw a strike to the powerful Giambi with Michael Brantley on second and first base open. Reed felt his arm drop on the pitch, saw it floating up there and hoped maybe Giambi would pull it foul.
"He doesn't miss mistakes," Reed said.
By the time Reed faced the media after the game and left the clubhouse, he was focused on Wednesday's game. He also takes a pragmatic and highly optimistic view in regard to Giambi's connection.
"I'd rather it happen now than in Game 7 of the World Series. Things could be a lot worse," Reed said. "It obviously [stunk], but like I said, it's good to learn from, and I rather it happen in this situation than in a game that we need a win or a playoff game or something like that."
Longtime White Sox reflect on tough season
CLEVELAND -- John Danks, Paul Konerko and pitching coach Don Cooper stand as three of the four current White Sox players and coaches who had the unpleasant task of working through a 90-loss season in 2007 and this year's disappointing campaign. To a man, they agree that the 2013 season has been far worse and tougher to handle.
"The bottom line is it has been an awful lot of bad baseball," said Cooper, who joins Danks, Konerko and coach Harold Baines as the lone holdovers from that '07 squad. "This has never been tougher. It just seems what can ever go wrong, will go wrong. That's kind of what's happened.
"This is the exact opposite atmosphere of a good club. Good clubs come looking forward to come to the park, ready to go, believing they are going to go out there and win. I don't think we have any of that going on."
That dismal '07 season had individual highlights such as Mark Buehrle's no-hitter against Texas, Jim Thome's 500th homer against the Angels and Bobby Jenks' consecutive batters retired streak. There also didn't seem to be as much to fix with the team overall as this year's group.
And because of this year's painful feeling from pretty much late May on, Cooper admits it has been tough to even evaluate talent at times.
"You are evaluating out of frustration and maybe anger because you are just not happy with the way things went," Cooper said. "It doesn't make any sense to sit and try to dissect what has happened. That's [general manager Rick Hahn's] end and [executive vice president Kenny Wiliams'] end to figure out how do we fill the holes, whatever holes they see and in what order."
"We have to be better in all facets of the game," Danks said. "We know that and we are going to do everything we can to right the ship."
Konerko sits out after fouling ball off kneecap
CLEVELAND -- Paul Konerko seemed more upset about fouling a Joe Smith pitch off the back of his right knee in his eighth-inning at-bat Tuesday night than the ensuing pain that came from the ball striking his kneecap.
"It's kind of embarrassing fouling a ball off of your back knee," said a smiling Konerko, who was out of the lineup for Wednesday's road finale. "You know, that's something you don't want to do. Your front leg is always in play. But your back leg, not too happy about that. That hurts more than the actual pain."
Konerko certainly expects to play in one of the White Sox final four games at home this weekend against the Royals.
"It will be fine," Konerko said. "I'll get back out there, I'm sure. It's not something I'm going to have to attend to or anything after we are done."
Third to first
• Alejandro De Aza's 17th homer Tuesday extended his career-high total and tied him with Ray Durham (2000) for the second most by a White Sox leadoff hitter in a season. Durham's 19 in 1998 rank first.
• The White Sox bullpen owns a 4.90 ERA in September, up from 2.28 in August. The relievers also have allowed 37 homers, ranking as the second fewest behind Texas at 35.
• Alexei Ramirez has started 155 of 158 White Sox games this season. Entering Wednesday, he was fifth in the American League in innings played at 1,372 2/3.