White Sox chairman got ball rolling on Duncan hire

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox general manager Rick Hahn says the hiring of pitching consultant Dave Duncan came from the top.

Generally regarded as one of the premier pitching coaches of his generation, Duncan — and former manager Tony La Russa — has known chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for a long time. La Russa managed the Sox in 1983 when they won the AL West championship, with Duncan as his pitching coach. La Russa and Duncan were fired by GM Ken Harrelson in 1986 and went on to win three World Series title together with the Athletics and Cardinals.

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“The opportunity came from Jerry having conversations with Dave and Tony La Russa at various points in the offseason,’’ Hahn said. “Jerry brought the idea to [vice president] Kenny [Williams] and I and Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] and we talked about it and it was unanimous. Why would we pass on the opportunity to add one of the finest pitching instructors of our generation as another set of eyes to our organization?’’

Dave Duncan with the Cardinals in 2011. (AP)

Duncan, 72, the Sox’ pitching coach from 1983-86, is not expected to be hands-on during spring training — manager Rick Renteria wasn’t sure that Duncan would be in camp — but he will review and evaluate video of pitchers and pitching prospects and give his feedback.

Duncan, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, was the special assistant to the general manager/pitching consultant in the Diamondbacks organization the past four seasons. His 32-year tenure as a pitching coach with the Indians (1980-81), Mariners (1982), Sox (1983-86), A’s (1986-95) and Cardinals (1996-2011) is the longest tenure in baseball history.

“He and Coop and [bullpen coach Curt Hasler have talked a bunch as we’ve gotten ready for this camp, and it’s going to continue as we get closer to the draft,’’ Hahn said. “We’d have been foolish to pass on adding [him].’’

Kopech to start Monday vs. A’s

Starting pitchers for the first four Cactus League games are: right-hander Dylan Covey vs. the Dodgers on Friday; left-hander Hector Santiago vs. the Mariners on Saturday; left-hander Jordan Guerrero vs. the Reds in the official home opener Sunday and right-hander Michael Kopech vs. the Athletics on Monday at Camelback Ranch.

Covey and Guerrero (ranked 25th among Sox prospects by Baseball America) were taken off the 40-man after last season.

Santiago, 30, signed to a minor-league deal last Wednesday, has the best chance of the four to make the Opening Day roster.

“I didn’t get to see him but the guys said he looked very good throwing live BP today,’’ Renteria said.

Ahead of pace

The Sox don’t figure to compete in 2018. Their haul of prospects from trades over the last 15 months, as well as the signing of Luis Robert, moved the needle ahead of where they figured to be at this point in the rebuild.

That said, 2020 is still the reasonable target year for being competitive, with 2019 possible if many variables come together.

“The target timing has already moved up in our minds based on what we’ve been able to do in the past year,’’ Hahn said. “We’ll see what happens this summer [if] that will move that date — ideally closer or potentially, worst case scenario, a little further.’’

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Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com