White Sox

Welington Castillo on board with the reasoning behind his Monday benching and the identity Rick Renteria is trying to establish

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AP

Welington Castillo on board with the reasoning behind his Monday benching and the identity Rick Renteria is trying to establish

And that’s why you always run hard to first base.

Rick Renteria didn’t use a one-armed man to teach his team a lesson Monday night, but he used a relatively extreme measure, benching one of his few veteran players to send a message that lack of hustle won’t be tolerated on this rebuilding White Sox team.

In fact, it won’t be tolerated anywhere in this rebuilding White Sox organization.

That’s the hope, at least.

Welington Castillo stood at home plate while his popup fell into the first baseman’s glove during the sixth inning of Monday night’s loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles, and because of it he didn’t go back out with his teammates for the seventh inning. It was the latest in-game benching by Renteria for a similar offense. Avisail Garcia was sat down during spring training, and Leury Garcia at the end of the team’s previous homestand.

This kind of reoccurring strategy might seem a tad strange, a manager enforcing hustle regulations to pro players during a season in which his team entered play Tuesday with baseball’s worst record. But part of rebuilding and development is establishing a cultural identity, and Castillo seemed on board with Renteria’s strategy, as well as the end goal of these punishments.

“That’s something that he always says, that’s something that he’s not going to let pass,” Castillo said Tuesday. “He always says you’ve got to run the bases hard no matter what. And for some reason, I was just frustrated, I wanted to get the job done. I saw the ball was going to be fair, and for some reason I did not run. I think that the decision that he made was the right decision. That’s not me, and I’m not going to do it again.”

Castillo was brought in this past offseason to provide some veteran experience to what is otherwise a very young squad of South Siders. Coming off career years both offensively and defensively, Castillo seemed to be an addition that would benefit this club in the short and long term. He could be here all the way through the 2020 season, when the White Sox could see their talented minor leaguers arrive and open the organization’s contention window.

And therein lies the importance of what Renteria did Monday. Castillo would figure to be veteran enough to be past such punishments. But if he buys in to Renteria’s style and passes it along to the young guys when they come up, then Renteria will have achieved what he wanted: for this to be the standard of the present and the future.

“The same rule that is for the young guys is for the veteran guys, too,” Castillo said. “We are a team, we are a family. One thing is for me, and the same thing has to be for everybody because we are a family, we are a team. Sometimes that’s good that that happens, and we’ve just got to learn from that.”

“We’re trying to eliminate habits if they’re there. Accidents you understand, but we’re trying to continue to create the identity of the White Sox organization as to how we’re going to go about doing things,” Renteria said. “They accept it, they understand it, and when we take an action I think for the most part they are accountable to what goes on.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings: Harper, Machado and emotional Harold Baines interview

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings: Harper, Machado and emotional Harold Baines interview

Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber come to you from the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

With all the recent talk about Bryce Harper, could Manny Machado be the big free agent the White Sox sign this winter? (4:34) Ken Williams talks about moving from sell mode to buy mode (7:49). Chuck interviews new Hall of Famer Harold Baines who sheds tears speaking about his dad (11:51) and ESPN's Tim Kurkjian comes on the podcast to discuss the White Sox chances of signing Harper and the decision he and the Today's Game Committee made to elect Baines into the Hall of Fame (18:05).

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

White Sox Talk Podcast

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The Bryce Harper derby might already be down to three teams — and the White Sox are one of them

The Bryce Harper derby might already be down to three teams — and the White Sox are one of them

LAS VEGAS — How about this for the first day of the Winter Meetings?

According to a tweet from NBC LA's Michael Duarte, the Bryce Harper sweepstakes might already be down to just three teams. And the White Sox are one of them.

The White Sox, Phillies and Dodgers have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Harper for a while now. The White Sox have the financial flexibility and seeming willingness to offer what's expected to be the biggest contract in baseball history to a guy who would mesh perfectly with their rebuilding plans. The Phillies have vowed to "spend stupid" and have been pegged as perhaps the favorite for more than a month. And the Dodgers are a high-spending club who have reportedly already pitched Harper on starring in Southern California. The White Sox, for what it's worth, have also reportedly made their pitch, one featuring Hall of Famer Jim Thome.

Harper — who once saw enough pitches to walk 13 times during a four-game weekend set with the Cubs — has reportedly been hearing quite a lot of pitches this week with all 30 teams in his hometown of Las Vegas.

But the perhaps most interesting tidbit of Duarte's tweet is that the Dodgers might find themselves out of the running if they're not able to move other pieces around or not willing to meet the requests of Harper's agent, Scott Boras.

Also on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, the New York Yankees pretty much bowed out of the Harper derby, and the St. Louis Cardinals did the same thing.

So where does this leave the White Sox? Well, it leaves them, apparently, as one of the teams with the best chances to land the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond.

If there truly are three finalists, a number that could of course still grow and shrink as the week (and offseason) goes on, and the Dodgers aren't looking like a very solid one, then the White Sox would figure to be in an excellent position. The Yankees bowing out took a team coming off a 100-win season with a championship-caliber roster off the board. The Dodgers boast similar recent success as the back-to-back NL champs, but if they're potentially not long for this sweepstakes, either, then the rebuilding White Sox don't have to pitch against that kind of immediate success. The Phillies made great strides in their rebuilding process last season, but there wouldn't be as much separation between the White Sox and the Phillies, when it comes to selling the ability to win championships, as there would be between the White Sox and the Dodgers or Yankees.

Harper would be a no-brainer fit with the White Sox future-focused long-term plan. Adding him to the collection of highly touted prospects could make the White Sox a contender for years to come, even if it doesn't even make them a playoff team right away in 2019. It's the kind of big-time opportunity the White Sox have been talking about taking advantage of to align with their ongoing development of a perennial contender.

"It’s very important for us to remain very diligent where we are in this," Hahn said Monday night. "We’re entering Year 3 of a rebuild, and although I think there’s some potential skepticism that it might be a year too soon, perhaps be pushing it, we’re very mindful of that. And we also want to balance the fact there is some unique opportunities out there in the market, and we wouldn’t be doing our job — even if it is perhaps a year too early — not doing our job if we didn’t fully vet those opportunities.

"It doesn’t mean we’re going to just look for any way to make some sort of splash. It has to fit with the long-term vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. Traditionally, the third year of a rebuild isn’t always the time where you push those chips in, so to speak, but when unique opportunities present themselves you have to respond."

The White Sox seem to be responding. Will Harper respond favorably to their pursuit?

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