BOCA RATON, Fla. -- They’ve had interest for 11 months and nearly lost him to the Washington Nationals in October. But the White Sox determined pursuit of Rick Renteria finally paid off on Tuesday evening as they named the former Cubs manager their new bench coach.
Citing Renteria’s high energy and positive demeanor among many other key characteristics, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn thinks his club has found the perfect complement for manager Robin Ventura’s coaching staff. Hahn said Ventura first contacted Renteria about a job during the 2014 winter meetings but the timing wasn’t right.
The team also announced the hire of Greg Sparks -- Oakland’s minor league hitting coordinator in 2015 -- as the new assistant hitting coach on Tuesday.
“We didn’t quite have the right fit available for (Renteria),” Hahn said. “Obviously, this time around I’m not sure we could have found a better fit for us in terms of his experience and intelligence, his communication skills, his baseball acumen. He’s going to help make the entire staff stronger.”
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“He’s a likeable guy who gets along with everybody in the clubhouse and brings the same positive demeanor each day. He knows the game extremely well. He’s a teacher. He’s had success with young players and fits pretty much everything we were looking for in that role.”
Another key — Renteria is bilingual. While Hahn never stated it as a necessity for an “extensive list” of candidates, the ability to fluently speak Spanish didn’t hurt Renteria’s candidacy. Though the White Sox feel confident in the abilities of several current coaches to communicate with their Spanish-speaking players, they lacked a fluent staffer in 2014.
“It’s a positive,” Hahn said. “It certainly was something that was missing from our staff, one of a number of traits that he brings to the table and one I think will benefit the clubhouse.”
Renteria nearly ended up in another clubhouse as he was expected to join Bud Black’s staff when he took over as manager of the Washington Nationals. Renteria worked with Black for six seasons in San Diego, including from 2011-13 as his bench coach. He was expected to handle the same role in Washington until negotiations between Black and the Nationals crumbled.
But once it as clear Renteria was again available the White Sox brought him in for a second round of interviews last week.
“I certainly understood there was a possibility he would land elsewhere,” Hahn said. “But the lines of communication stayed open, and ultimately it made sense for us to sit down, which we did. Quickly soonthereafter we were able to work out a deal.”
Hahn said Renteria and Ventura are more familiar with each other after several conversations over the last month. Even though Ventura is headed into the final year of his contract and Renteria has experience, Hahn isn’t worried about speculation of a potential managerial change. Hahn said his only concern is that the White Sox improved and he feels they have.
“There had to be that comfort level between Robin and the hire, which he and Rick certainly have,” Hahn said. “ And in the end, I think the most important thing is having the coaching staff all pulling in the same direction and that’s toward making us better and making us as strong as we possibly can be, which is what Rick expressed was his desire as well. So internally we don’t get too hung up on contract status or what’s going to happen in the future. It’s more about trying to win that next ballgame and putting us in the best position to win. We feel like we have made the organization stronger with these two additions today.”