CHICAGO — Former All-Star third baseman Robin Ventura is replacing the fiery Ozzie Guillen as manager of the Chicago White Sox.
Ventura, a Righetti High grad and current Arroyo Grande resident who is an assistant with the Eagles baseball team, agreed to a multiyear deal on Thursday.
A longtime star with the White Sox, Ventura was hired by the club last June as a special adviser to director of player development Buddy Bell. Ventura is the 39th White Sox manager overall, including 17 who played for the team.
When general manager Ken Williams asked whether he would be interested in replacing Guillen, Ventura admitted he was surprised. Especially since he hadn't managed previously.
But after a couple of days to think about it, he knew it a move he wanted to make.
"I think there is a challenge there, getting back into the game," he said in a conference call.
"I do have a passion for it. I do have a passion for this team and this city. I'm not one to really back away from a lot of things. ...The passion is there to do it, I was asked to do it. I'm honored."
Guillen was released from his contract with one year remaining after eight seasons with the White Sox and immediately was hired by the Florida Marlins as their manager.
"That whole thing surprised me as much as anybody. I figured he would be managing here a long time," Ventura said of Guillen, his former teammate and friend.
The 44-year-old Ventura played for a host of managers who could influence his style — Jeff Torborg, Gene Lamont, Jerry Manuel, Bobby Valentine, Joe Torre and Jim Tracy.
"I ran the gamut on different styles and smart baseball men," he said. His style? Yet to be determined. He said he wants players who care and are accountable.
Ventura was a first-round draft pick of the White Sox out of Oklahoma State in 1988 and spent the first 10 seasons of his 16-year career with Chicago.
Known for his slick fielding, clutch hitting and left-handed power, Ventura also played for the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was six-time Gold Glove winner and an All-Star in 1992 and 2002.
Ventura's selection came as a surprise. Most speculation had the White Sox's top candidates as either Tampa Rays coach Dave Martinez or Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. Both are former White Sox players.
"Needless to say he was a little surprised and little apprehensive," Williams said. "We had to explain to him exactly what the support system would be and exactly what are expectations were at the start. I was very clear with him that I do not expect him to be Tony La Russa on day one. In our estimation the fit is such that all of that will come together and we will ultimately be better off down the line that we could be if — in my opinion — we went in a different direction."
Pitching coach Don Cooper and first base coach Harold Baines were already re-signed to multiyear contract extensions before the season ended. Hitting coach Greg Walker is not returning.
Ventura batted hit .267 with 294 home runs and 1,182 RBI over his career. His 18 career grand slams are tied for fifth in Major League history.
He appeared in 1,254 games over 10 seasons with the White Sox, hitting .274 with 171 home runs and 741 RBI. He ranks among the White Sox career leaders in grand slams, walks, homers, RBIs, extra-base hits and runs scored.Ventura led Oklahoma State to the College World Series and still holds the Division I record with a 58-game hitting streak.
Guillen left after he couldn't get a contract extension from owner Jerry Reinsdorf. His relationship with Williams had become fractured over the last two seasons.
Now another White Sox player is back to try and get the team back to the World Series. Guillen led them to the title in 2005.
"His ability to motivate and lead others will be a terrific attribute as manager," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "I loved him as a player, from his baseball knowledge, to his professionalism, to how he went about his business in the clubhouse and on the diamond."
Expected to be contenders this season, the White Sox finished 79-83 and third in the American League Central as several key players, most notably DH Adam Dunn and center fielder Alex Rios, struggled offensively.
With the managerial search completed, Chicago's next big offseason move could be determining whether to bring back longtime ace Mark Buehrle, who will be a free agent.