White Sox

White Sox make it official, hire Rick Renteria as bench coach

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White Sox make it official, hire Rick Renteria as bench coach

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.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“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.

[MORE: Ramirez still open to return to White Sox]

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.”

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

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USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.