GLENDALE, Ariz. — On the first day of spring training, the messages from general manager Rick Hahn and manager Rick Renteria were clear: The White Sox are holding themselves to a higher standard in 2019.
It may not be a playoff-caliber standard. Sorry, that will have to wait till next year, even though players are already claiming the Sox, who made decent but not significant offseason changes, will somehow go from being 100-loss bad to postseason material.
But it’s a standard that calls for marked improvement. It’s time to hit or get out of the box, Renteria said after watching pitchers and catchers take part in their first drills of camp at Camelback Ranch.
“There comes a time when it’s time to answer the bell,” Renteria said. “And so individuals, different individuals, have to start answering the bell at a higher level, at a more consistent pace.”
Possible translations: Lucas Giolito, cut down on the walks. Reynaldo Lopez, do not lose focus for one single pitch. Tim Anderson, find a way to get on base a little more. Yoan Moncada, put more balls in play.
In the third year of a rebuild, after losing 95 and 100 games the first two seasons, the Sox are not yet built for the postseason. Perhaps next season, if the aforementioned players — as just a few examples — get better and as minor-league talents become major-league contributors.
“Regardless of how our roster matches up against anyone, we want them to approach each day with the attitude they’re going to win that day,” Hahn said. “Because eventually the talent level is going to get to the point where we can compete with anybody. But we want them to be prepared to win. We want them to be professional every at-bat, play 27 outs, grind through each at-bat and do what’s needed from the team-based standpoint to win.”
Hahn patted Renteria and his coaching staff on the back for their player-development work during the lean years. He now expects that in “the coming years, you’re going to start seeing us converting on some of that potential.”
We shall see.
Jon Jay, veteran newcomer, looks around the clubhouse and sees “a ton of talent in this room” — developing every-day players such middle infielders Anderson and Moncada and left-hander Carlos Rodon; prized outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez; and proven veterans such as Jose Abreu, Welington Castillo, Yonder Alonso, Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera. To Jay, this is no 95- or 100-loss unit.
“Sky’s the limit,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. That’s the beauty of baseball.
“There’s one thing I know: We’re going to go out there every single day, work hard and compete. The goal is to look up in September and have a chance to play in October.”
Keep in mind, players on teams that will be out of contention in July are saying similar things at camps all around baseball this week. Sox players said a lot of the same last spring, and look what happened.
But this year is on a different plane, Hahn said.
“We’re very cognizant of fact of where we are in this rebuild,” Hahn said. “We know we’re entering Year 3. But you are starting to see the fruit of the hardship and labors on the scouting and trade side.
“When you take a step back and look at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the course of the first couple years, and what it’s going to start looking like over the course of the next couple, it’s hard not to get excited.”