KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Say this for manager Rick Renteria: He has his players buying his hustle-first, ask-questions-later style.
Since his first day on the job, Renteria promoted effort, executing and doing the little things, which all managers ask for.
It has been pretty evident in the White Sox’ first 26 games — win, lose or lose big, as they did against the Royals on Wednesday night — that they’re aiming to please the boss and giving him what he wants.
“Ricky is a special guy,’’ said veteran Melky Cabrera, 32, who has played for six major-league teams. “We all try to do our best for him because we know he is trying to do his best for us. There is mutual respect, a connection there. There is a mentality and philosophy he brought here to hustle and do your best no matter the score.’’
Sox players run hard on routine grounders and infield pop-ups till the play is over. They’ve been alert in backing up bases and throwing to the right base and doing, as they like to say, “the little things.’’
“We play hard,’’ Leury Garcia said. “It worked in spring training, and we’re still doing it. Everybody hustles down the line. When you have everyone doing that, you have a better chance to win.’’
The Sox didn’t have much of a chance against right-hander Nathan Karns in their 6-1 loss at Kauffman Stadium. Karns stifled them with six scoreless innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven before turning it over to the bullpen. Sox right-hander Mike Pelfrey pitched five scoreless innings before getting charged with three runs in the sixth, two runs coming on consecutive extra-base hits by Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain to right-center that scooted to the wall beyond right fielder Avisail Garcia’s reach.
The Royals scored two in the seventh against left-hander Dan Jennings.
To a man, the Sox have bought in to what Renteria is selling, and it’s a big reason why they’re 14-12.
Renteria knows it’s early, and he’s managing with a starting rotation that is carrying a Rule 5 pitcher (Dylan Covey) and discarded veteran (Pelfrey), but he’s laying the groundwork for the future, kind of a “White Sox Way,” if you will.
And his players are responding. They say Renteria genuinely cares about them.
“With Ricky, it’s something unique,’’ Cabrera said. “He gives us confidence. Saying to never quit, it doesn’t matter how hard the situation, we can overcome. You feel motivated.’’
“Since the beginning of spring training, Ricky was really clear about what he expected from us,’’ said designated hitter Cody Asche, who’s in his first year with the Sox. “As men, you have to respect that from the manager when he asks you to do the simplest things. He doesn’t ask for a lot — a professional at-bat, running out ground balls and fly balls, backing up bases and being where you’re supposed to be. He hammered that message home. You keep doing those things, and you’re going to find yourself in position to win a lot more ballgames.’’
After the defeat, the Sox were positioned to gain a split of the four-game series with left-hander Derek Holland starting Thursday afternoon. Holland, new to the team after signing as a free agent in the offseason, has played on winning teams with the Rangers.
“It comes down to everybody buying in,’’ Holland said. “It takes all nine, not just one guy.
“Rick told us from Day 1, ‘Nobody believes in us because we’re in a rebuilding process.’ Screw that stuff. Nobody buys into that. Everybody shows up every day to win.’’
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Center field belongs to Leury Garcia