Among the emerging differences between Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura I wrote about a few posts back, perhaps the most noticeable is a renewed focus on drills. Ventura took it to new level earlier in the week by having his team take infield practice prior to Monday's game at Progressive Field.
Daryl Van Schouwen followed up to get the philosophy behind the practice, and Ventura's explanation makes a good amount of sense:
‘‘I like doing it when we first get to a city,’’ Ventura said. "I’ve always felt it was necessary. Outfielders throwing to bases, you can’t really do that in batting practice.’’
On most days, infielders field ground balls during BP but outfielders merely shag fly balls.
"You’re asking a guy to throw a ball to home plate, he hasn’t done it at that field,’’ Ventura said. "Unless you actually go out and do it, you might do it once every three weeks or a month. I like them to get out there and do it, be on the field and be comfortable.
"It just seems like you get ready for the game, prepared better.’’
This seems like something that could get a rookie manager in trouble, but here's where Ventura's stature comes in handy, if there's anything to what Adam Dunn told MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince:
"He's got that fine line between player -- because he's not far removed from that -- and manager," Dunn said. "That's kind of surprising, because all he knows is being one of the guys. And he is. But when things need to get done, he does it really well.
"I'm telling you, it's tough. You want everybody to like you and be your buddy, and you don't want to step on anybody's toes. But I think everybody respects him so much because everyone remembers him as a player and how good he was. I know he's got everyone's respect in here, for sure."
While Ventura will be making his home debut, Dunn would be well served by pretending it's his first season on the South Side, too. Among the incredible things about his 2011 season is that he slugged the exact same pitiful percentage home and away, even though he hit eight of his 11 homers at U.S. Cellular Field.
- Home: .149/.267/.277, 32 BB, 97 K over 236 PA
- Away: .169/.315/.277, 43 BB, 80 K over 260 PA
I imagine it has to go better for him this time. He's hitting .222/.364/.389, but .364/.462/.636 against right-handed pitching (he's 0-for-7 so far against lefties). He's using more of the field. He's seeing the most pitches in the league (5.05 per plate appearance), which is a combination of increased selectivity and increased ability to cover more of the strike zone. He's showing a lot more fight when he gets behind in the count. He's a couple hits off lefties away from being back to what he was, when adding up his components.
It would be great if he were able to show his new/old self immediately in front of Sox fans. Detroit will be throwing two right-handed pitchers at the Sox this weekend, and neither Max Scherzer nor Rick Porcello are elite, so the conditions are welcoming. A couple good games should buy Dunn plenty of time, but in the event he stumbles into a slump early in this homestand, I hope we don't hear boos by the end of it. As we learned last year, there will be plenty of time to express discontent as the season progresses, so there's no reason to rush into it now.