1/24/2014 11:29 P.M. ET
Hahn: White Sox not going to 'write off' 2014
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The target of this White Sox reshaping process stands as a highly competitive team for 2015 and beyond. That goal doesn't mean 2014 is any sort of a forgotten year, as general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura expressed at SoxFest on Friday.
"We are not going to write off any season, especially one where we feel we have quality starting pitching and a solid bullpen, as is the case right now," Hahn said. "We're also realistic. We're coming off a 99-loss club. It's imperative that we show improvement, it's imperative that we show growth, especially on the position-player side of things."
"Is someone going to pick us to win our division? Probably not, just because of the age and the guys that we have. Does that mean we can't? No," Ventura said. "We're going to go into Spring Training, work hard, and go from there. But I'm not going to put a 'We have to have this,' or 'We're not going to be as bad as this.' We'll go in and [the players will] decide how we play."
Hahn, Ventura field fan questions in Q&A session
CHICAGO -- As SoxFest Town Hall meetings go, Friday's opening session with general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura was far more humorous than controversial in terms of entertainment value.
The 45-minute question-and-answer period officially was titled, "Recharged & Remade: Your 2014 White Sox," and featured a variety of topics, with White Sox television analyst Steve Stone serving as the moderator.
• Without naming him by name, Hahn pointed to Brian McCann as the only catcher on the open market who could have been a long-term solution and better serve the White Sox than Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley and Adrian Nieto. He praised A.J. Pierzynski for his work in Chicago when a question arose about letting him go, but pointed out that his return wouldn't fit into long-term solutions.
• Hahn expressed great pride in the aggressive manner with which the White Sox pursued free agent Masahiro Tanaka. Not only did the club make a competitive offer, years- and dollars-wise, to what Tanaka received from the Yankees, but it also sold the organization's family atmosphere and its ability to take care of starting pitchers and keep them healthy.
"We made him say no," said Ventura, reinforcing the White Sox as a viable option.
• Jared Mitchell, the team's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and a frequent SoxFest topic, is in a good place mentally, according to Hahn, following a .304 showing in the Arizona Fall League. The pressure is off Mitchell, as he no longer is the next man in for the outfield.
• It was tough to trade Hector Santiago, who not only was a talented, versatile pitcher, but also a good all-around person. Hahn received a Happy New Year's text from Santiago shortly after the clock struck midnight at the beginning of 2014.
"You have to break some eggs to make an omelet," said Hahn, who picked up Adam Eaton as part of the three-team deal involving Santiago.
• The funniest moment came when a female fan complained about Alex Rios' departure, in part, because she considered him good looking. Ventura had the perfect response.
"When we are making moves, we don't look at how attractive [a player] is," said a smiling Ventura.
Competition for closer role with White Sox
CHICAGO -- Nate Jones appears to be the clubhouse leader to take over for Addison Reed at closer. But it's right-handed setup man Matt Lindstrom, with his 45 career saves, who provided the best description for the pressure involved with ninth-inning work.
"There's nobody behind you," Lindstrom said. "You're not handing the ball off to anybody else: it's you, you're going to shut it down. You're not going to win the game for us, but you're going to make sure we win the game. And there is some pressure involved with that."
Lindstrom added that with his stuff and Jones' stuff, as long as they keep confident on the mound, they have the ability to get hitters out with one pitch.
"Even facing Miguel Cabrera, you make a good pitch right now and he'll probably ground into a double play," Lindstrom said. "That's what I try to do, I try to think positively, and usually it works out."
When pitching coach Don Cooper was asked Friday at SoxFest about the new closer, he said that pitcher will step up and set himself apart. In somewhat serious tones, he pointed to Bobby Jenks standing a few feet away and said his was the first name that came to the pitching coach's mind.
As Jenks recently told MLB.com, he wants to make a comeback, but recovery from his October back surgery could take anywhere from six months to one year.
Abreu not worried about high expectations
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu already has been depicted as a force with the bat, and he hasn't played in a Spring Training game yet, let alone a regular-season contest. Talk of his American League Rookie of the Year Award potential before suiting up doesn't seem to bother the free-agent addition, who joined the White Sox for six years, $68 million.
"I respect everybody's opinion, but in my mind, I'm here to do my best and to help the team win every day. That's really what I'm going to focus on doing," said the soon-to-be 27-year-old Abreu, through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz, at SoxFest on Friday. "I just want to be healthy, be able to play, work hard. I know if that happens, everything else will take care of itself."
"[General manager] Rick [Hahn] didn't bring him in to steal bases. I think he knows that," said White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson of the Cuban slugger. "He has an idea of what everybody's quote-unquote expectation might be of him. I think he has a good grasp of his game, though. He's been playing long enough; he's not 21 years old."
Third to first
• Eaton likes the idea of drawing comparisons to Aaron Rowand, and his grinder-rules style of play.
"I met Aaron at fantasy camp down in Arizona, and he seemed like an awesome guy," Eaton said. "Great teammate, and I hope I can be half the player he is. I always remember when he was with the Phillies, running into that wall backwards, and I hope I can bring the same type of mental and physical edge that he did."
• Venerable White Sox television play-by-play announcer Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson praised Hahn for his offseason work. And Harrelson believes Hahn isn't finished.
"There's a couple of other moves he wants to make, that he's going to try to make, and he might make 'em," Harrelson said. "And if he does, it would be unbelievable."