Rick Renteria getting his message across to White Sox
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Rick Renteria is bouncing back nicely as he settles into his second year as manager of the White Sox.
The foundation Renteria, 55, laid after being promoted from bench coach to manager last October is firming up. Players — veteran and otherwise — showed respect in his first year by running out ground balls through the last game of a 95-loss season.
Coaches and players alike welcomed Renteria’s communication skills. He got his message across, speaking in English and Spanish during team meetings, putting an arm around a struggling player and giving an encouraging word or laying down the law in his fatherly manner.
In baseball times like these, when managers lead their teams to the postseason but get fired (see Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi and John Farrell), replacements are arriving with no managerial experience. It’s communication, relationship-building and getting max effort from younger players that today’s general managers want.
“He puts in countless hours to make everyone better at what they do,” third-base coach Nick Capra said Tuesday. “His love for the game, his passion and dedication rub off on all of us who are around him.’’
Those close to Renteria on the job say he’s tough but fair and able to relate regardless of background or ethnicity. Being bilingual doesn’t hurt.
“Articulating a message is really important,’’ Renteria said at the Winter Meetings. “All of us at some point learn the importance of that and the value of that with time and experience. You try to expand your vocabulary in multiple languages at times. It’s a little difficult, but you want to make sure that the message is consistent.’’
Moments earlier, Renteria had passed by Cubs manager Joe Maddon, and the two exchanged pleasantries with a hug. Renteria was unceremoniously let go by the Cubs in favor of Maddon, and it turned into the Sox’ gain.
“We were trying to create a new culture,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “Ricky and his coaches have helped set something up we made great strides on in the last months.’’
Communication is key. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson related something he saw in the Target Field visitors clubhouse in Minneapolis last year that spoke volumes.
“I could kick myself for not taking a photo of it,’’ Harrelson said Monday. “There was Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Leury Garcia and Rick Renteria sitting around the table in the food room. They were laughing their behinds off. They were having such a good time talking about baseball and having good times, and you just don’t see those three guys in that mode. And Rick had them in stitches, speaking Spanish, of course.’’
Renteria worked so hard in his first year as Sox manager that Hahn expressed some level of concern that he won’t go overboard at the expense of his health. He hopes Renteria can back off now that he has his way of doing things established.
“He will be the first to tell you that’s really the only way he knows how to go about things,’’ Hahn said.
“The thing we talk about as a staff are you want to motivate, encourage and inspire,’’ Renteria said. “All the coaching staff bought in. We were just trying to continue a consistent message.”
NOTE: The hottest rumor of the day involved the Yankees talking to the Orioles about superstar infielder Manny Machado, with one report possibly linking him to the rebuilding Sox. Machado, who will be a free agent after next season, would make more sense to the Sox as a free-agent target next year.
“It would have to be extended control,’’ Hahn said when asked if he would trade pieces of his future for an established player. “That’s an important part of this for us. We’re not looking at stopgaps.”
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.