White Sox clubhouse vibes ‘are great’ with new manager Tony La Russa

“He wants to prove it was the right decision,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said.

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White Sox manager Tony La Russa talks with pitcher Lance Lynn during spring training drills. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Everyone braced for the worst when Tony La Russa, age 76 and a Hall of Famer — but one who hadn’t managed since 2011 — was named the White Sox’ skipper.

But here we are, four weeks through spring training and two weeks from Opening Day, and Sox players have expressed nothing but acceptance and support for La Russa. Setting a well-received tone at the beginning of camp by saying he had to earn his players’ respect, and admitting being nervous about his new job, La Russa was in good standing at the outset and has done nothing to lose it.

Star shortstop Tim Anderson, guarded and cautious when first asked about La Russa during the winter, wants it known that he’s behind La Russa and that everything is good in the Sox’ clubhouse.

“I want everyone to know Tony is great, me and Tony is fine, I love Tony,” Anderson told the Sun-Times on Thursday. “Tony is going to allow us to do whatever we want to do.”

La Russa’s surprise hire in October was met with outrage, primarily because of his age and his close friendship with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. There were con-cerns about how the young, lively and fun-loving Sox would mesh with an old-school manager who doesn’t seem fond of bat flipping.

Anderson said he’s going to keep doing his thing.

“One more big announcement: Tony and the White Sox are totally fine,” he said. “The vibes are great. We’re all definitely getting along. So let’s not forget what the ultimate goal is and what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

First impressions have been good. Early in camp, outfielder Adam Engel said La Russa does “everything for a reason” and communicates clearly.

“A really cool thing about Tony is there’s no question marks behind what he’s doing,” Engel said. “He’s going to tell you why he’s doing it. If it seems different, he’s going to tell you why. He’s incredibly smart, incredibly wise, a ton of experience. You can just tell that nothing surprises him. He sees stuff, and it’s like he saw it coming.”

Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito described his first phone conversation with La Russa as “amazing.”

As a co-host on Jomboy Media’s “The Chris Rose Rotation” podcast Thursday, Giolito said, “You know, when we hired him, media was going crazy: ‘He’s not going to connect with the younger guys,’ this and that. I was reading it, and I was like, ‘Where is this coming from? I get it to a certain degree, but he hadn’t even talked to a player yet. Does he get a chance or not?”

Respecting La Russa’s résumé, Giolito reserved judgment.

“The first conversation was amazing,” he said. “Once we got into baseball stuff, the first place he went was, “At least to my knowledge, from what everyone’s told me, you guys have a strong clubhouse. I’m going to have to earn your guys’ respect.’ ”

That’s how La Russa approached it from the start, general manager Rick Hahn said.

“He wants to prove it was the right decision, that . . . he’s the right guy for this team and he can play his role in getting us to the promised land,” Hahn told the Sun-Times. “He knows there was doubt and naysayers, and he’s doing everything in his power to prove them wrong. It starts in the clubhouse and then the organization.

“The trust and faith seems uniform throughout the organization right now. It’s going to take a little longer. . . . In the end, we all realize we’re going to be judged on whether it yields a championship or two. In the meantime, he’s doing everything in his power day by day to get us closer to that.”

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