White Sox

Rick Renteria wants to be Robin Ventura's 'sounding board'

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Rick Renteria wants to be Robin Ventura's 'sounding board'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Renteria has experience in his current role and a good sense of what the White Sox hope to receive from him.

Headed into his fourth season as a bench coach, including the first with the White Sox, Renteria said Sunday he looks forward to working with manager Robin Ventura, who is entering his fifth season. Though the former Cubs manager could be a candidate to head up his own club as soon as next season, including perhaps even this one, Renteria said he hasn’t thought that far ahead. The longtime coach is merely worried about his role with the White Sox, one he knows very well after serving as bench coach of the San Diego Padres from 2011 to 2013. Renteria, who managed the Cubs in 2014 before they fired him to hire Joe Maddon, also served as the Padres’ first-base coach from 2008 to 2010.

“You’re all looking to do the same thing, looking to make sure that everybody is on the same page,” Renteria said. “Make no mistake about it, Robin is the manager. If he needs something from me, I’m here to be a sounding board. If there’s something I see that he might be involved in something else, I might mention it to him. But for the most part, I’m just here to be a sounding board and give him some information. Like everything, we get so much information in the course of a series that you’re trying to clean it up and try to filter it and use the one that’s going to be the most appropriate for the moment. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you don’t, but you’re out there being prepared to do the best job you can.”

There’s little doubt Renteria would love to one day manage again. Some have speculated that the White Sox brought Renteria in to take over for Ventura, were the White Sox to get off to yet another poor start.

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But Renteria contends his next job isn’t a focus and it never has been. He feels like diverting his attention elsewhere would hurt what he hopes to accomplish with the White Sox, who initially contacted him shortly after he was let go by the Cubs in 2014.

When the team spoke to Renteria this offseason, two things were clear. The White Sox wanted a Spanish-speaking coach to deliver the correct message to players, and they intended to improve their base running, among other aspects.

Those are several of the areas Renteria has been heavily focused upon since the team’s first full-squad workout on Tuesday.

“The biggest thing that I can do is take every day one day at a time and focus on what my job is now,” Renteria said. “I’ve kind of always worked that way, I’ve never really looked beyond where I was at. I think all those things ultimately take care of themselves and right now my job is to collaborate with all the coaches in that room and all the players and hopefully look forward to having some fun and we can all enjoy it.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.