CLEVELAND -- Robin Ventura finished a deserved third in the 2012 American League Manager of the Year voting behind Oakland's Bob Melvin and Baltimore's Buck Showalter. With the White Sox surprising success, Ventura received plenty of accolades for his calm and cool leadership.
Now, with the team sitting 21 games out of first place in the AL Central and 26 games under .500 following Thursday's 6-1 loss to the Indians, the 2013 focus on Ventura centers much more on the negative. In the course of one season, Ventura has gone from the manager the White Sox needed to the manager who should be on the hot seat.
General manager Rick Hahn strongly disagrees with that particular assessment.
"You're free to point your fingers wherever you feel it's appropriate," said a pointed Hahn, when asked during a Thursday morning interview on WSCR 670 AM, the team's flagship station, if it was time to point fingers at Ventura for the lack of sharpness and cohesiveness with this disappointing team. "In reality, the effort hasn't changed.
"The level of communication and energy hasn't changed. If anything, it's increased as they attempt to stem this tide and improve the performance of this disappointing season."
Hahn added that if the effort, focus or message to the players had changed or disappeared, then ensuing staff changes would be made.
"At this time, we don't feel changes are merited in the near future," said Hahn of Ventura and his coaching staff.
While maybe Ventura received a slightly larger share of credit for the team's success in '12, both Hahn and Ventura understand that sharp criticism comes with major failure for the men in charge.
"It happens. That's just part of being in this job, and I think it's not easy," Ventura said. "I'm the one in charge and you just have to take it. It doesn't change my focus on what we are trying to do or win games or teach or anything like that. It's just part of having the job.
"We are continuing to work at it. You are trying to be positive and that's probably the hardest part right now."
Ventura has constant communication with Hahn, from big picture to specific game events. He admitted that the present focus is more about big picture.
Konerko expected to return to first base this weekend
CLEVELAND -- Paul Konerko has played in 10 games since returning from the disabled list on July 22 and has served as designated hitter in every one. But manager Robin Ventura said Thursday that the White Sox captain will be back at his customary position of first base, possibly as soon as this weekend in Detroit.
"I'd like to get him back in there," said Ventura of Konerko, who had an off-day on Thursday. "I would like to get him back in the mix of playing first. When you go a stretch of not playing, it will probably take a little while to get him back in there.
"It's just more protecting his back. I was thinking about doing it here [in Cleveland], but the other night there was a little something when he was running the bases. So, it's precautionary stuff more than anything."
Konerko is 9-for-36 with a double and five RBIs since returning from a lower back strain. He has just seven homers for the season, and while Ventura believes the back issue could slightly affect his long-ball potential, he also believes that Konerko is getting close to where he wants to be.
"I know he's still tinkering with stuff. I don't think he's where he wants to be right now the way he's swinging the bat," Ventura said. "It's not as far off as you would think. There's still something there that he's working with. It'll get there."
Rienzo appreciative of Peavy's tutelage
CLEVELAND -- The trade of Jake Peavy to Boston opened up a spot in the White Sox rotation for Andre Rienzo, at least on a temporary basis. Peavy also contributed to Rienzo's strong Major League debut Tuesday, when he didn't allow an earned run over seven innings and fanned six.
"Man, Jake, what I can say about Jake? Jake is an unbelievable pitcher and an unbelievable person," Rienzo said. "Before the game, he calmed me and said what guys like, what kind of balls and how to pitch them.
"He's an unbelievable guy, and the little time I had with Jake, I learned a lot. He helped me a lot. And in Spring Training, he was the same. He talked to me a lot as a young guy, a rookie guy, and he helped me a lot to do my best. I cannot replace Jake. Jake is not replaceable, but I will try to do my best."
Rienzo pitched in the Arizona Fall League and for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic in preparation for the 2013 season. But that extra work hasn't sapped the intensity of this energetic pitcher.
"You always want to be going at 100 [percent]," Rienzo said. "I need to be at 100 for making the energy come through for the team and to help the team.
"This is awesome. My dream is to be here and hopefully I can answer well for coach Robin [Ventura] giving me the opportunity. I will help the team and try to do my best."
Third to first
• Marcus Semien has been promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, after hitting .290 with 21 doubles, five triples, 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 105 games for the Barons. Semien, 22, played 47 games at shortstop, 41 at second and 17 and third.
He topped the Southern League in hits with 114, runs scored at 90, on-base percentage (.420), total bases (190) and walks (84). He hit .543 over his last 10 games for Birmingham, with five doubles, five homers and 14 RBIs.
The sixth-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft had two four-hit games and one three-hit game in his last seven.
• Jeff Keppinger's two-run single in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 6-5 loss marked the first pinch-hit RBIs for the White Sox this season.
• Jose Quintana leads the Majors with 14 no-decisions and has 24 since 2012.
• The White Sox are currently in a stretch of playing 31 games in 31 days to start the season's second half. They have one off-day and one doubleheader in this stretch.