By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — After meeting with White Sox fans this past weekend at SoxFest, new manager Ricky Renteria addressed in depth for the first time the manner in which he will supervise the 2017 team. A baseball lifer, Renteria spent 2016 as the White Sox’s bench coach under Robin Ventura. Now, the job and responsibility of handling a roster that’s being overhauled from a veteran group to a youth movement is his baby.
“The fans have been outstanding,” Renteria said on “Inside the Clubhouse” on 670 The Score. “They had a lot of questions about the process, but they have embraced the direction the organization is going in.”
Renteria was in a similar situation when he was picked to lead the youthful Cubs as manager in 2014. With a history of working well with youngsters in his previous coaching jobs, Renteria was brought aboard to help with the Cubs’ player development in the big leagues. A kick out of the managerial job that came with plenty of high praise was his reward for a successful build-up of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Renteria was fired after the 2014 season only because Joe Maddon became available to the Cubs.
By all accounts, Renteria did a good job of boosting morale and helping the Cubs take the next steps in their youth movement plan.
“Rick was terrific with our group of players,” a Cubs official said. “He had to be slowed down with the bullpen guys in April and May. That was the only early instruction he got from management. Rick — like every manager — wanted to win. We had a young core of relief pitchers. We wanted to win, of course. Rick learned with us that we needed to pace the player development in the pen (they weren’t ready to be used daily). Rizzo and Castro flourished under Rick. His experience with the media that season will make him more than ready to help the White Sox in this similar situation.”
In 2016, Renteria saw Ventura deal with a disgruntled group of players who lacked sufficient team leadership on the field. Outfielder Melky Cabrera and third baseman Todd Frazier did their best best to lead, but the team was largely a fractured group, one that eventually cost Ventura his job.
Now Renteria has a group that doesn’t include left-hander Chris Sale or outfielder Adam Eaton, who were moved in December trades to start the rebuild. Renteria will watch as youngsters get a chance to prove themselves and veterans continue to be moved over the next few seasons.
“In our situation in particular, we are changing the direction a little bit,” said the 55-year-old Renteria, who was a first-round pick by the Pirates in 1980 and played parts of five seasons in the big leagues. “Having been in the situation before, we can move quickly to get started. I had been on the other side (with the Cubs) before and have some experience in this. We can combine with the veterans who are here to articulate messages that help us move forward.”
The losing aspect of the equation won’t be easy to absorb as the White Sox rely on inexperienced players in the next few seasons.
“We are excited as an organization,” Renteria said. “The deals that have been made have been extremely important in this process. We as a staff, including the player development people, have our work cut out for us. As far as skill sets, if you look at and talk to these young players, they are pretty polished. Of course when they get to the big leagues, there is always a learning curve here. I really believe some of them will impact us here in the near future.”
A recent mantra of Renteria’s has been to approach every day with the “White Sox Way.” A focus of this phrase has been the small details, hustling every day and using baseball intelligence. In this era, those are useful reminders.
“Times have changed a little bit as far as the information we have,and how we use it,” Renteria said. “We still must bring our heart and a commitment every day. I think some of it (laxness) is all of our fault. The player needs a source to seek information from. Hopefully me and the staff will be able to supply that. You want to have people buy into what you are selling. It should be easy. People want to buy into something good. We want them to play with passion and let it show. We want to re-energize that enthusiasm and energy that may have slipped away in some cases.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.