Ventura talks improving defense, exciting players

CHICAGO -- Manager Robin Ventura and second baseman Gordon Beckham visited McClellan Elementary School, located just a long fly ball or two from U.S. Cellular Field, on Wednesday as part of the Working in the Schools program. Beckham read an anti-bullying themed book to students, while White Sox mascot Southpaw, who received a rousing reception from the students, acted out the story.

Ventura led the students in an anti-bullying pledge, and then Ventura and Beckham answered numerous questions. The children's subjects ranged from the anti-bullying topic to inquiry about their respective careers.

"To do it at a school so close to the stadium, it's special," Ventura said.

"Any time you're dealing with kids, you're molding young minds. I think that's important," Beckham said. "It was fun to come over here with Robin and do it. It's always good to come back and meet with kids, be an influence on them and be a positive influence on their lives. That's important for Robin and me so it's good to be here."

Approximately 30 White Sox front office employees volunteer each week with the WITS program at McClellan Elementary School. This event preceded SoxFest 2014, which begins Friday at the Palmer House Hilton.

Davidson squarely in mix for third-base job

Top Prospects: Matt Davidson, 3B, White Sox

CHICAGO -- Matt Davidson certainly appears to be the White Sox third baseman of the future.

Whether that future begins for Davidson at the open of the 2014 season has yet to be decided. The 22-year-old acquired from Arizona in an offseason trade for closer Addison Reed sits in the Spring Training mix for the starting job, but manager Robin Ventura wouldn't go as far as classifying the job as Davidson's to lose.

"We still have guys who can play there, but it's a competition, definitely," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, speaking after a team-run anti-bullying program at McClellan Elementary School on Wednesday. "He has every reason to go in there and try to win the job.

"That's for a lot of spots. Guys are going to come in and you have a chance to win that job, but you do have other guys who can play there. Depending on how it goes in Spring Training, you make adjustments after that. But I venture to say for him he's going in there trying to win the job."

Davidson, who checks in at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, possesses the classic power of a corner infielder. Ventura watched the right-handed-hitting Davidson during last week's minicamp at Camelback Ranch and came away thinking he was physically bigger than he imagined and moves around better than the previous reports indicated.

A logjam already exists at third base, with Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppinger in the mix, not to mention Marcus Semien. The White Sox like Gillaspie's easy left-handed swing and expect Keppinger, who is under contract for two years, $8.5 million, to have a better performance than his White Sox debut.

If Davidson makes the team out of Spring Training, an active roster problem takes shape.

Ultimately the plan with Davidson figures to mirror what the White Sox did with Avisail Garcia. He won't come to the Majors until there are everyday at-bats available.

"You want him to play. But you start watching him, moving around, how he goes about his business, he fits the part. He looks like a big leaguer," Ventura said. "He can hit and has the power and everything else. Defensively, I got that rap, too, for a while, so I'm not worried about that."

Beckham, Ventura upbeat about club's chances

Ventura and Beckham optimistic for the 2014 season

CHICAGO -- It's often difficult for a team coming off a 99-loss season to feel optimistic about the ensuing campaign. But optimistic is the word that best describes the sentiment shown by Robin Ventura and Gordon Beckham on Wednesday as they spoke about the team following an anti-bullying program at McClellan Elementary School.

Beckham gives credit for that optimism to the moves made by general manager Rick Hahn since last July.

"Rick was going to make some moves, but you didn't know how they would affect the team. I really feel like he has done a great job of reshaping the team," Beckham said. "It's tough to see the guys go that we have lost, but I do believe it is for the better of this team and this franchise.

"I love them. I love them personally, not that my opinion matters at all. I think Adam Eaton is going to be good, I think that the other guy, [Matt] Davidson will be fine. We've obviously added Jose [Abreu]. There is a lot to be positive about and it's going to be fun to show up and see everybody compete and then go out and just try to win games."

Ventura could sense a buzz or just a different feel as part of the White Sox minicamp involving top prospects, newcomers and captain Paul Konerko last week at Camelback Ranch.

"You get excited by the newness of different guys coming in, what that does," Ventura said. "Kind of the culture and the vibe of the team is different because you have different guys.

"They are excited, I know that, and that's another thing that's good to look forward to. Going into Spring Training, you have guys that are eager and hungry to do something and they are talented, which is good."

Third to first

• If Beckham can avoid the injuries that plagued him for most of the 2013 season, then he is confident a good offensive season awaits him in '14. Beckham talked to MLB.com during the offseason about being in as good of place as he has been since his rookie campaign at the plate.

"I feel good and my body feels healed from the injuries I had," Beckham said. "I felt like I was just limping around the last month and a half. It was tough.

"But it was a tough year for everybody. Not just me, but the way the team went, how many games we lost. It was very trying on us and our patience, but it will be good motivation for this year to make sure we remember. We don't always want to harp on it, but we always want to remember what it felt like so we're not in that position this year."

• It wouldn't be a week in the offseason without questions being offered up concerning Abreu. It was Ventura's turn to answer those questions Wednesday, after Ventura saw the power-packed first baseman at last week's minicamp in Glendale, Ariz.

"Again, you are just watching him take batting practice and things like that," Ventura said. "But he's got a good swing, it comes off of his bat really nice. He looks like a professional hitter. That's more than probably people gave him credit for.

"He doesn't look like just a guy who is trying to yank everything down the left-field line. He does have the ability to hit it the other way, which turns out to be what you need to survive in the game."

• Former White Sox outfielder and designated hitter Bo Jackson has rejoined the organization as a team ambassador, as announced by the club on Wednesday.

Jackson, who was a member of the 1993 American League West champions, joins other White Sox legends as team ambassadors including Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton and Minnie Minoso. He will make appearances on behalf of the organization and serve as a team representative in the community and throughout baseball.

"Bo is an American sports legend, who always will hold a special place in hearts of White Sox fans," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a statement from the team release. "His heroic return from what seemed to be a catastrophic career-ending injury helped us win a division title in 1993 and demonstrated to the sports world an unrivaled will and determination to be the best. It is great to again welcome Bo Jackson as a member of the White Sox."