GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox had a rare Cactus League night game Friday, affording a free morning for some, but not for first-year pitching coach Ethan Katz.
Katz, 37, was busy breaking down video of his pitchers as he entered the home stretch of spring training, getting a highly touted staff ready for 162 games and a hoped-for run at the postseason.
There was no time for golf or sleeping in or anything besides his seven-days-a-week job.
“No, not right now,” Katz said during a phone conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times. “Not till the offseason.”
The expectations for Katz, who was hired to replace Don Cooper after Cooper spent 2002 to 2020 as the Sox’ pitching coach, are soaring.
Sox ace Lucas Giolito had Katz, who had never been a major-league pitching coach until now, as a coach in high school and raves about him.
The hope that Katz can harness Dylan Cease’s significant upside and fix some of the things that prevented Carlos Rodon from staying healthy and not reaching his first-round ability heightens expectations for a rotation that begins with Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn.
Katz hasn’t achieved a thing yet as a pitching coach in the majors, but he’s already being touted as the next big thing. The buzz is there.
“I’m aware of it,” Katz said. “And it really is much appreciated. The only thing I can do on a daily basis is give the organization and these players everything I’ve got, 110%. I’m going to put the work in for them, and that is all I can guarantee and all I can live by.”
To a man, players have said nice things about Cooper, whose feelings were hurt about being let go. But few around the team don’t see Katz’s addition and his 2020s approach as a good thing.
“When everything is said and done, I hope I can have a career as good as Coop’s,” Katz said. “Those are tough shoes to fill, and he brought a championship [in 2005] here. Hopefully I can do the same. But we have a lot of work ahead of us, and I hope I meet everyone’s expectations. I’m going to do my best to do that.”
Tony La Russa had Dave Duncan for his pitching coach for all of his career before he was hired to manage the Sox again in October and still holds him in the highest regard. Katz said he hasn’t slipped and referred to him as “Dunc,” but La Russa said Saturday that Katz reminds him of Duncan.
During Katz’s interview for the job, La Russa said, “I sat there and I kept thinking, just the way he presented, the way he spoke, no noise, a lot of detail, he reminds me a lot of Dave. And the work ethic, the attention to detail is just outstanding.”
La Russa also likes how Katz has meshed with assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler, a holdover from former manager Rick Renteria’s staff.
“Ethan is the real deal,” La Russa said. “He’s made a very good impression with our pitchers. He’s earned their respect.”
Katz said working with La Russa is “going great.”
“The thing I pride myself on is hard work, details and challenging players,” Katz said. “He thinks the same way. He notices things that most people might not pay attention to in the spring, but he finds them very important during this time, which I do as well, so we mesh perfectly together because we’re looking to bring the best out of everybody. It does take those little details and challenging guys to bring the best out of them.”