The White Sox named former Cubs manager Rick Renteria as Robin Ventura’s new bench coach and also named Greg Sparks as the club’s assistant hitting coach Tuesday.
Renteria replaces Mark Parent, whose contract was not renewed at the end of the 2015 season. Harold Baines stepped down as the team’s assistant hitting coach after the season and is remaining with the team in another capacity.
“We are extremely excited to add Rick to our major-league coaching staff,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “The wealth of knowledge and experience he brings to the position was evident throughout the interview process, and we are confident that he will be an invaluable resource for Robin and the rest of the coaching staff.”
Renteria, 53, managed the Cubs in 2014 after spending the previous six seasons on the San Diego Padres staff, including 2011-13 as bench coach and 2008-10 as first base coach. Renteria was abruptly and somewhat awkwardly pushed aside by the Cubs when Joe Maddon became a free agent last October. Hahn reached out to Renteria about a month after the season about a job in the organization but said the timing wasn’t right.
“Being bilingual was just one trait of Rick’s many that made him appealing to us,” Hahn said.“His experience as a big league manager and a bench coach on a major league coaching staff, as well as his managerial experience in the minors and former playing career. They were all positives in his favor, as well as his high baseball IQ, communication skills, high energy, really the list goes one with positives in his favor. We are thrilled to be able to add him at this time.”Renteria, who was still under contract with the Cubs, had offers for coaching jobs after the Cubs let him go, including one on new Twins manager Paul Molitor’s big-league staff and another to rejoin the Padres but chose to stay out of baseball last season. He hasn’t spoken publicly on his dismissal from the Cubs.
Renteria’s experience sets up a potentially awkward situation should the Sox falter early next season. Ventura came under some fire because of the team’s poor performance last season, his third losing year in a row, and Renteria would be viewed as an obvious replacement if the trend continues. But Renteria, who is expected to be available for comment Wednesday, is expected to make it clear he has no designs whatsoever on managing next season.
“I’ve read about that being an issue, but the guys we actually sat down and interviewed and talked through where we were as a club, where we hope to get to, it really wasn’t a factor at all,” Hahn said. “In the end we wanted to get to the strongest coach with the best baseball knowledge and the best well-rounded set of skills next to Robin and that’s what Robin wanted. There had to be that comfort level between Robin and the hire, which he and Rick certainly have.
“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.”
Renteria is still getting paid by the Cubs — who went to the NLCS under Maddon — as he takes a job on the other side of town.
“Obviously we’re thrilled with Joe and we had a wonderful year,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “But Ricky deserved better. I’m glad he gets a chance with the White Sox.”
Sparks, 51, was the Oakland A’s minor league hitting coordinator in 2015 and from 2004-11. He spent the last 19 seasons in the A’s organization where he worked with Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. Sparks was the hitting coach with Class AAA Sacramento from 2012-14 and Mesa in the Arizona Fall League in 2014.
“We felt like Rick and Greg both would be great fits with our coaching staff,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Rick brings a lot to the table with his background as a manager and bench coach and his ability to communicate well with players. Greg has a great track record with the Oakland organization, and his successful history of working with Todd Steverson will serve our hitters well.”
Sparks compiled a 359-352-1 record over six seasons as a minor-league manager from 1998-03.
Sparks appeared in 1,270 career minor-league games over 12 seasons with nine different organizations, batting .241 (1,010-4,183) with 120 home runs and 630 RBI. His father, Joe, was the Sox’ first base coach in 1979 and a manager in the organization’s farm system for most of the 1970s. Greg was a batboy for the Sox in 1979, including the infamous Disco Demolition Night on July 12.