White Sox to name Pedro Grifol as next manager

The Royals’ bench coach will replace Tony La Russa.

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Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol will replace Tony La Russa as manager of the White Sox.

Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol, center, will replace Tony La Russa as manager of the White Sox.

Redd Hoffmann/AP

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said a good communicator was essential for the next manager. It was the first thing he mentioned when spelling out criteria a month ago. Shortstop Elvis Andrus said communication was what the Sox needed first and foremost.

By choosing Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol as manager, which a club source confirmed Tuesday, the Sox will hire a field boss with no major-league playing or managerial experience. But Grifol has invested plenty of time in different organizational roles, and the Sox are confident he’ll get his message across to players.

Grifol, who wasted no time reaching out to Sox players Tuesday, is known to be a good listener who had a profound impact on the development of Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. Hahn, vice president Ken Williams and others in the organization are expecting Grifol’s communication skills with the Sox to be a plus, as well.

The team could make the choice official before the weekend.

Grifol, 52, has worked for the Royals as their bench coach the last three seasons and for seven years before that as quality-control or catching coach. Before joining the Royals, he was in the Mariners’ organization, including time as a manager and director of Seattle’s minor-league operations.

A former catcher, Grifol played nine seasons in the minors, including five in the Twins’ system and four with the Mets. The highest level he reached was Triple-A.

Grifol, who interviewed with the Marlins this offseason, also interviewed with the Tigers, Giants and Orioles in previous years. He was a candidate to replace Mike Matheny for the Royals’ manager job this offseason, but Kansas City hired Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro on Sunday. .

While Kansas City bypassing Grifol in favor of Quatraro raised a red flag for some, the Royals, with new ownership and a new general manager, wanted to bring in fresh blood from outside their organization.

That the Sox are bringing in someone from outside is noteworthy. Grifol is the first managerial hire from outside the organization since Jerry Manuel in 1997. Since then, they have been managed by Ozzie Guillen, Robin Ventura, Rick Renteria and Tony La Russa, and it became clear to many that it was time for a fresh voice from outside the Sox’ family-style organization. Manuel guided the Sox to a division title in 2000, but since then, the Sox have made the postseason four times in 22 years.

The Sox won the 2005 World Series under Guillen but have won only three playoff games since then. Guillen’s past success, familiarity with the current team because of his work as a TV analyst and the passing of time and mending of fences since he parted ways with the organization in 2011 made him a popular choice to replace La Russa. He interviewed last Monday but was never viewed as the first choice for Hahn, who spearheaded the search.

Grifol will replace La Russa, who was not Hahn’s first choice when he was hired in 2020. La Russa took the Sox to the postseason in 2021 but lost convincingly, then stepped down because of health reasons after two years at 78 after this season.

The Sox’ search lasted four weeks and included interviews with Guillen, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, among others.

Born to Cuban immigrants and raised in Miami, Grifol is bilingual and should connect well with the Sox’ young Cubans such as Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert as well as Eloy Jimenez, who’s Dominican.

Whether he helps turn around a team that slogged its way to an 81-81 season, finishing 11 games behind the Guardians in the American League Central under La Russa in 2022 after having World Series aspirations in spring training, remains to be seen. The makeup of the roster Grifol has to work with is key.

Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu is a free agent, and there’s a good chance he won’t return in 2023, which points to the Sox’ next order of business now that a manager is in place: fixing a roster that was too right-handed and too heavy with first basemen, is lacking defensively, has catching concerns and is in need of more pitching depth.

When he spelled out his criteria for the next manager on Oct. 3, Hahn cited “championship experience” in the dugout along with communication skills and an understanding of how the game has grown while respecting “old-school sensibilities.” Grifol’s position on the Royals’ World Series staff in 2015 apparently checked the experience box.

Grifol interviewed Oct. 9 and was said to impress Hahn, Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Whereas Reinsdorf called the shots with La Russa, this time it appears Hahn got his man.

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