‘Gushing’ GM Rick Hahn: Pedro Grifol quickly raised bar in managerial search

Hahn praises Grifol’s communication and game-planning skills, “high energy and detail-oriented approach to leadership.”

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New manager Pedro Grifol (left) puts on the White Sox jersey as GM Rick Hahn (right) watches.

New manager Pedro Grifol (left) puts on the White Sox jersey as GM Rick Hahn (right) watches.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

There was no getting past the comparison of general manager Rick Hahn’s demeanor Thursday when he introduced Pedro Grifol as the White Sox’ manager to when Tony La Russa was named two years ago.

Grifol was clearly Hahn’s top choice this time, not the handpicked selection of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf as La Russa was, and it started to become clear during a first interview intended to last 90 minutes but extended to more than three hours.

“He essentially knocked our socks off,” Hahn said.

Hahn emphasized Grifol’s diversified experience and characterized him as a ‘‘modern baseball thinker.”

In other words, someone who won’t intentionally walk a hitter with a 1-2 count or leave a struggling starting pitcher in for five innings hoping to earn him a win as La Russa did. Hahn praised Grifol’s “excellent” communication skills, game-planning skill and “high energy and detail-oriented approach to leadership.”

“He is committed to building an inclusive and cohesive clubhouse, and we could not be happier to have Pedro leading our club,” Hahn said.

“Today is a pretty exciting day around here. You may see me smiling a little bit more than you have over the past year and gushing a little bit more than I have in the past year, and that’s because it’s a little difficult for me to contain the excitement that many of us feel being able to present Pedro Grifol to you all as our new manager.”

Hahn spearheaded an exhaustive search, which started with 30 names. Eight were interviewed, seven of them from outside the organization. Hahn, assistant GMs Jeremy Haber and Chris Getz and Daniel Zien of the baseball operations department were in on the first interviews before Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams met with “a few candidates.”

The final round with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Williams and Hahn took place in Arizona. Reinsdorf told Hahn a couple of weeks into the search that the process reminded him of when Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas was hired.

“That made me proud,” Hahn said.

Grifol was the second candidate interviewed, and one hour into it “it became very clear that the bar had risen,” Hahn said, “and that the rest of the group that we were going to be meeting with over the course of the following week or 10 days had a high standard to meet based on what Pedro presented that day.”

Grifol had interviewed for managerial jobs five times, including the Royals and Marlins this year. With the Sox, “there was a quick connection,” he said. “I hadn’t said that before in other interviews. We talked about baseball. We just talked about how we can implement things that are going to help these guys maximize their talent.”

Former Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo will serve as Grifol’s bench coach, and pitching coach Ethan Katz and assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler will return. Gone from this year’s staff are third-base coach Joe McEwing, hitting coaches Frank Menechino and Howie Clark, bench coach Miguel Cairo and coaches Shelley Duncan and Jerry Narron. First-base coach Daryl Boston could return.

Grifol will have a say in who fills the open spots.

“We sit here today and with the hiring of Pedro feel like we are taking a major step of putting ourselves back on track,” Hahn said.

Hahn still views the Sox’ core as “championship-caliber” and is confident Grifol can lead the team back to it.

“After Jerry, Kenny and I sat down with Pedro, it was very clear to all three of us that he would be the unanimous choice to address some of the things we needed to improve in,” Hahn said. “I could go on for the next two hours about how Pedro fits.”

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