By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the “little things” that White Sox manager Rick Renteria has preached to his players since spring training.
This doctrine — a common directive from big league managers — can become tedious and even downright boring to hear. But in the case of the White Sox, getting a bunt down, hitting the ball the other way and backing up bases on defense truly could be the difference in winning some close contests this season.
Although the White Sox have decent talent across the 25-man roster, it will take some smartly played games by Chicago to stay competitive in the American League this summer as the organization has embarked on a rebuild. Renteria is and always has been a stickler for out-hustling the opposition and doing the fundamentals better than the other team.
Case in point: On Thursday, the White Sox tied the game early with a safety squeeze bunt. Rookie outfielder Jacob May got the bunt down, and good things happened from there. An error on the pitcher set the tone for more runs and an eventual 11-2 blowout win over Detroit.
“I knew coming into the season fundamental baseball would be big for this team,” May said. “My job in the nine hole is to turn the lineup over. We are trying to give the offense a spark anytime we can. Things like my bunt are small things. If they are executed in the right way, it can turn into something big.”
Renteria has always been the consummate player-development coach. It’s also apparent he has the attention of his roster.
“I believe it all started to resonate with our guys during spring training,” Renteria said. “That is where it has to start. We put it into practice early in Arizona. Yesterday on the bunt was just one moment. I believe they have bought into the idea. We train them to be ready for the moment. They know this is the way we want to play the game.”
Cody Asche signed on with the White Sox after spending four years in Philadelphia. He noticed as soon as he got to Arizona a strong emphasis on doing simple better.
“They really conveyed the message in a different way,” Asche said about the White Sox’s spring instruction methods. “You could see from day one people buying into all of that. You get a collective group together who believes in the manager’s message — that is the right track to be on.”
Asche and company were treated to the Renteria message at 9 o’clock every morning for 45 days.
All in all, Renteria has been a guiding light for his team so far in his brief tenure.
“Those little things help validate the conversation, and then they continue to validate it with each other,” Renteria said.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.