White Sox

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

rick-renteria-0228.png

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.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

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.”

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Tangible, visible, hit-you-over-the-head obvious signs of progress have at times seemed hard to come by for the rebuild-loving legions watching the White Sox on a nightly basis during this developmental 2018 campaign.

That’s not to say there haven’t been tons of positives throughout the organization. Those who sprung for the MiLB.TV package have been able to see every Eloy Jimenez home run, and people around the baseball world found out just how fantastic Dylan Cease has been when he represented the organization at the Futures Game.

But the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the strikeout-heavy first full major league season from Yoan Moncada and the early season demotion of Carson Fulmer have left those watching the big league team praying for some sign that things are improving.

Enter Michael Kopech.

The news that the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect, one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field must have seemed like an oasis in a 31-games-below-.500 desert when it was announced Sunday afternoon.

It’s sure to make for an even more hyped atmosphere than the one that greeted Yoan Moncada last July, when the No. 1 prospect in the game made his debut in a White Sox uniform. And while the architects of this rebuilding effort know the inner workings of the organization like no outsider ever could, they’re going to be part of that atmosphere Tuesday, too, part of a celebration of progress coming to the South Side.

“As focused as we have been, the front office and even White Sox fans, on the future and progress we feel we’re making, we’ve also been tested,” general manager Rick Hahn said on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve talked about, going back to last offseason, this would very likely be the most difficult year of the rebuild and the patience this year would require would be a challenge for all of us. So I do think it’s important to try and enjoy these moments along the way where you do see that progress.

“We can talk all we want about how we’re only in Year 2 and that it is going to take time and there is a bright future ahead of us, but we’re all human, we’re all sports fans, we all want to see progress along the way. That has nothing to do with the timing of making a move like this, but when a move like this does occur and when the developmental reasons line up accordingly, we all should take a moment to enjoy the progress and excitement that comes.”

Those paying close enough attention knew what Hahn cautioned prior to the beginning of the season, that this was going to be the hardest part of the rebuild. Tom Petty said it first, to be fair, that the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what 2018 was always going to be for the White Sox, a waiting game. The incredible amount of talent Hahn brought into the system needed time to develop, and in many cases it still does.

And so during that waiting came what fans and observers have seen on a nightly basis at the major league level. For the young players who are still slated to be key pieces of the team’s long-term plans, we’ve seen growing pains and the continued development that comes in the bigs. In certain cases, we’ve seen players who are fighting to make themselves a part of the long-term plans and players who simply won’t end up being a part of those long-term plans.

But few players are expected to have as a big a starring role as Kopech, hence the excitement surrounding his promotion. He’s tantalized with his last seven starts at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio — 59 punch outs and only four free passes — over his last 44 innings.

While fans have been clamoring for promotions — be it of Kopech or top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez — for months, it’s taken this long into the season for a big one to come to the major league team. That, too, has all been part of the plan. Hahn mentioned multiple times throughout the year that how the team handled Giolito and Lopez a season ago could be a kind of template for how they handled Kopech this season. And while all three are different pitchers dealing with their own developments, Kopech will make his debut one day away from the one-year anniversary of Giolito’s White Sox debut.

In the end, though, Kopech’s promotion is the manifestation of the patience Hahn said everyone involved with this organization — him and his own front office included — had to practice this season. The White Sox waited until they knew Kopech was absolutely ready. They didn’t make a promotion to better a team that wasn’t contending for a playoff spot or to please an antsy fan base hungry to see progress happen as soon as possible. Baseball players constantly say that it’s all about execution. Well, Hahn and the White Sox executed their plan exactly how they wanted.

“Outside noise or emotion or even passion or excitement for seeing the rebuild progress has nothing to do with our decisions in terms of the timing of promotions,” Hahn said. “Each of these decisions are motivated by what’s best in terms of putting both the organization and the individual player in the best long-term position to reach their potential.

“We knew the 2018 season would be a challenging one and one in which we were going to have to not fall prey to outside influences or the influence of outside factors beyond what’s best for the organization and what’s best for our players’ long-term development. It’s going to require patience. I think you’ve seen that we’ve exhibited that this season, and we’re going to have to continue to do that throughout the coming weeks and months.

“The short-term gratification that would come from eliminating white noise or promoting a high-profile player just isn’t worth it when you consider the long-term benefits that come from us just showing the requisite patience that is required to put these guys in the best long-term position to succeed.”

Now it’s time for Kopech to execute his own plan and meet the huge expectations he has for himself and that Chicago has for him.

But for those watching the big league team, this is the hit-you-over-the-head sign of progress you’ve been waiting for, a tangible sign that the rebuild is moving forward.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

kopech.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: