Ventura plays it smart when others disagree
CHICAGO -- As the late Jim Fregosi used to say, sometimes you have to learn how to lose a game.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has passed that course.
Ventura took one for his team on Wednesday night, when he wound up using infielder Leury Garcia as a pitcher in a game that was tied at 4 in the 14th inning. The Red Sox predictably took advantage, winning, 6-4, on a two-out double by Jackie Bradley Jr., but Ventura has nothing to apologize about.
Ventura looked bad afterward, running through his full complement of seven relievers in a five-inning span after starter John Danks worked six, but his only regret is the outcome.
"You still come out and manage, put it behind you and go," Ventura said before Thursday night's series finale against Boston. "That's part of the game. Wish we would have won in nine and had it over. But that's part of being here. You never know what's going to happen."
Ventura gave Maikel Cleto a chance to earn a save in the ninth after he got the last out of the eighth inning but Cleto was wild, which was the case for almost everyone in the White Sox bullpen. The relievers, including Garcia, walked 11 in eight innings, forcing Ventura's hand on his frequent pitching changes.
He was an easy target for analysts on Wednesday, which he understands. But Ventura said he wouldn't have done anything differently if he had a chance.
"Well, when things don't happen, you can get criticized for things," Ventura said. "Going through the game and looking at it, we would have done the same thing [every time]."
Ventura said he knew he was in danger of possibly running out of pitchers before Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly off Matt Lindstrom tied the score in the ninth.
"We started thinking about it in the ninth. If it does start going, you start figuring out who's capable of doing it,'' Ventura said. "Who wants to do it? Who can throw strikes? Leury was a natural choice. … [But] there was a lot of hands in the air last night. You'd be surprised. There were a lot of guys willing to [pitch]."
While the loss opened him up for criticism, Ventura made three very smart moves late in that crazy game:
• He snuck his more experienced catcher, Tyler Flowers, into the game without embarrassing rookie Adrian Nieto, who was struggling to handle the power arms in the bullpen, especially since they weren't often hitting his targets. Ventura pinch-hit Paul Konerko for Nieto in the bottom of the ninth, which allowed him to get Flowers in the game without making it a substitution for defensive reasons.
• Ventura declined to force starter Felipe Paulino into the game. He could have gone that way, as Paulino has three days' rest since a five-inning start against Cleveland on Saturday, but Paulino has a history of arm injuries and would have been at risk.
Ventura confirmed that was a factor in his thought process. "His history," Ventura said. "You don't want to run him out there in the middle of his rest."
• He pulled rookie reliever Daniel Webb after the 13th, which was his third inning on the mound. He had thrown 59 pitches, and to have him throw more would have been reckless, risking an injury.
Was it hard to pull his last available pitcher knowing an infielder would be taking over in a 4-4 game?
"Just the competitive part of it, it's hard to do," Ventura said. "Sometimes you have to live to fight another day. Leury did a pretty good job of getting through the first two guys, so you just kept your fingers crossed that hopefully they would hit it at somebody. That's part of playing, part of rolling the dice like we did last night. [It] didn't work, but I don't plan on that being a regular occurrence."
The White Sox brought in a fresh arm on Wednesday, adding Zach Putnam and designating lefty Donnie Veal for assignment. Webb will need a day or two off, but it appears they escaped major casualties. That might not have been the case had Ventura not backed off when he did.
Smart man. Smart moves.
Phil Rogers is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.