White Sox

Ricky's boys don't quit — and the White Sox have no plans to quit on the right manager for the rebuild

Ricky's boys don't quit — and the White Sox have no plans to quit on the right manager for the rebuild

No, Rick Renteria is not going to get "Cubs'd."

The White Sox manager has been in his current position before, waiting for a much-heralded group of prospects to arrive at the major league level and turn a Chicago baseball team into a perennial World Series contender.

That plan worked on the North Side of town, but Renteria wasn't allowed to stay around long enough to see it through, jettisoned when the Cubs had the opportunity to hire Joe Maddon ahead of the 2015 season. Maddon's taken the North Siders to three straight National League Championship Series and won the World Series in 2016. Who knows if Renteria would've done the same had he been the one to manage Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and all the other guys who came up after his one-year stint with the Cubs concluded.

But Renteria now has a second chance to fulfill that mission, tasked with shepherding the White Sox bevy of young talent to major league stardom and annual contention on the South Side.

And it looks like this time, he'll at least get that opportunity. The White Sox front office and players alike rave about Renteria, and the way they talk about him makes it seem mighty unlikely he'll suffer the same fate that he did at the other end of the Red Line.

What do they love about him? Well, any White Sox fan worth his or her salt knows one thing: Ricky's boys don't quit.

"There is a way this team has been playing this game under Ricky and this coaching staff over the last year or so that not only is contagious but is the kind of thing that can endure year in and year out as the player personnel changes," general manager Rick Hahn said ahead of last weekend's SoxFest festivities at the Hilton Chicago. "I've heard from many Sox fans over the course of the offseason about how they've never been as excited over a team that lost 95 games.

"A lot of that I think is a testament not just to ... the excitement that they have about what's coming and understanding what's coming, but I think almost as importantly as how that team fought on a nightly basis and the whole 'Ricky's boys don't quit' thing is that sort took on a life of its own but is emblematic of a team that plays 27 outs.

"It was a theme that Ricky and the coaches emphasizes at the start of spring training, they carried it through. Again, player talent level is going to change over the course of the next couple years, perhaps ability to contend is going to change over the coming years, but that kind of environment and that kind of culture is the thing that we wanted to make sure was in place so that every young player as they started joining that in Chicago, they know what we're about and they're in a position to fight on a nightly basis."

Now, just because they didn't quit doesn't mean they won every game. The White Sox lost 95 times in 2017. But that was to be expected after the announcement of the rebuild and the trades that sent Chris Sale and Adam Eaton — and later Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and a significant chunk of the bullpen — away from the South Side.

Wins and losses, however, are not important right now. Culture is. And that's why the White Sox believe Renteria continues to be the right man for the job. Because when the wins do start coming in bunches — that's the plan, at least — these guys will still be playing with the same drive and same energy that they did when they were on a fourth-place team.

"I think that we’ve made a concerted effort to connect all the players to each other," Renteria said. "Because I think in an environment in which everything that they do on a 24/7 basis is judged, failure and success, if they’re grounded in what I believe to be a family environment, as far as them picking each other up, it allows them an opportunity to be able to overcome some of those difficulties. Because the way the world works today with the media, in terms of information being shared with everybody, in terms of their performances, I always kind of tell players, ‘Don’t believe everything you read about yourself.’ You might get a big head when things are going well, and then the game has a way of humbling you when you start to struggle. So keep perspective.

"I think bringing them together as kind of a unit, they become good friends, they’re a pretty tight-knit group. I know I heard Rick (Hahn) talk about that a little bit. Even right now when we’re sitting up there waiting for all the youngsters to come out, they’re pretty happy to be here, they’re very excited about the prospects of what the organization is doing. We’re going to continue to move forward, and it’s really important for them to be doing it together."

All this praise goes to Renteria not just because he happens to be the guy in the manager's chair while the organization is undergoing such a transformation. Renteria's a part of all this change. He's fostering a culture. He has the ability to effectively communicate with both English- and Spanish-speaking players. And perhaps his most important role will be using his coaching ability to finish off the development of so many of these highly touted young players.

Hahn might get the credit for stocking the farm system with so many big-name prospects. But if all goes to plan, Renteria will have an equally important part in the rebuild. He will have helped turn those prospects into impact big leaguers.

"(Yoan Moncada)’s not a finished product, Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, Carlos Rodon’s not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process," Hahn said. "They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development, they all have a history in setting organizational goals and holding players accountable for it, and that continues not just through our system, but once players get to Chicago."

The carefully laid rebuilding plans have a lot more to them than just trades and international signings. The other parts, be they tangible or intangible, are why the White Sox continue to be so adamant that Renteria is the right man for the job.

In other words, they have no plans to quit on him.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”