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Winter Meetings interview with Rick Renteria

December 12, 2017

Q. You hear so much about the rebuild, but how anxious are you to move forward seeing the talent kind of crystallize and kind of remind yourself at the same time that these guys are still young enough to have time to develop?RICK RENTERIA: Yeah, we're very much excited about

Q. You hear so much about the rebuild, but how anxious are you to move forward seeing the talent kind of crystallize and kind of remind yourself at the same time that these guys are still young enough to have time to develop?
RICK RENTERIA: Yeah, we're very much excited about how we're moving forward, and I think sometimes we have to kind of take a step back and remember that for certain things we still want to be able to accomplish in the development. They're doing a nice job, and again I know everybody talks about, what are the windows? I think sometimes players end up changing those windows by the way they develop and how quickly they develop, and hopefully you have enough of them ready to sprout, so to speak, at the same time, so that actually it comes to fruition what you're trying to accomplish, which is to win.
Q. How difficult is this process for you and your coaching staff, knowing that there's a continuing turnover of personnel every year? You're going to probably have five or six new bullpen guys this year, you might have a couple new starters. How difficult is it to repeat the message to the new people and keep the other people fresh in their mind about what's going on?
RICK RENTERIA: I would say it's certainly a task but I think it's attainable. I think that you can't change your message. I think most players when they join you, we talk about bullpen arms changing, Coop and Hasler do a great job trying to get those guys accustomed to going about doing what we do. They do a great job. Once we started having changes last year, we had a lot of guys step up and do a nice job.
I think that as long as I maintain a consistent approach, my demeanor is what it is, they understand the long-term what we're trying to do. I don't think you want to have a club in perpetuity rebuilding. I think we want to ultimately get to the point where you're supposed to be striking, and I think we just have to continue to chip away and maintain the process, the teaching, the communication that's necessary for us to continue to go out there even at this particular juncture to try and win a ballgames on a daily bases.
Q. What are the important boxes you checked off last year in your first year in terms of establishing a foundation and things like that? There were a lot of things you wanted to get done. What were the most important things?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I think that at the end of the day we wanted them to have a certain sense of who we were and identity that we wanted to establish as an organization. We wanted to play the game a certain way. I think we started to accomplish that. I think that the routine that these guys were following on a daily basis was consistent. I think one of the things we wanted to also do was instill some confidence. The thing that we do with the staff we talk about, you want to motivate, encourage and inspire. Those are the three words that we use. I think that all the coaching staff bought in. I think that it was easy for them to buy in because that's what they did. I think that we were just trying to continue a consistent message. From the beginning to the end we got to get these guys to know each other a little bit as quickly as possible. I think they started picking each other up, they grew to kind of love each other as teammates and as friends, and I think that's one of the things that we're going to try and have in terms of continuity is to have the older players that have been there or the guys that have been in this organization to continue to create that message.
Q. Through social media you see pretty much everything everyone's doing at this point, and it looks like a lot of your younger players, not a lot but some have moved to Arizona. Do you like this, that the bond you're talking about is kind of forming in the off-season, that they're kind of building it up there?
RICK RENTERIA: Yeah, I am aware that a lot of guys are kind of setting some roots there, some winter roots there. It's actually pretty awesome to see players, you have your own facility, our organization has our own facility, for them to be able to access at will and then have teammates that are in the area willing to go ahead and go out there and work. We can't mandate them to come out obviously, but they can take it upon themselves and they have the facilities to do it and they do it. They know the workouts routines that they have established for them through the winters, and they know what they're building up to.
It's exciting for us to see guys want to be there and want to be a part of continuing to improve and maintain strength and fitness leading to a Spring Training.
Q. And working together too?
RICK RENTERIA: Yeah, and they're working together. Absolutely. Again, I think that's a bond that they're building, I think it's important, it's obviously occurring. Hopefully it continues.
Q. Have you talked at all to Gary Jones and what's he up to now? Does he have any irons in the fire? RICK RENTERIA: Yeah, I did speak to Gary. He's with the Phillies. Actually that's where he was interviewing, is what I understood, and so there's a chance that's where he will be. But what capacity I couldn't tell you. But he is, he is got his what did you say feet to the coals?
Q. Irons in the fire.
RICK RENTERIA: Irons in the fire. Okay.
Q. Is he doing all right?
RICK RENTERIA: He's doing good.
Q. How essential was the five-minute sessions or so that you have had after the game reinforcing positive things with your players after ballgames win or lose? How essential was that and will that stay a part of your style or as your players grow, you might move away from some of that?
RICK RENTERIA: I think it's on a need basis. I think that right now even in Spring Training we go over our routines, our games, the workouts. We discuss different aspects of the past day. Those are important. I think that it's important for them to be able to get a sense of what we're trying to accomplish. The conversations are important because they need to know exactly where we're coming from on certain issues.
But in terms of how long that will persist, I think that once hopefully we're able to recognize who they are and how they're establishing that clubhouse atmosphere and how they're going to deal with each other in terms of the game and aspects of that nature, that it will start to transition. But at this point right now I still need to be able to have conversations with the players as a group and sometimes as individuals to cover certain things.
Q. The game has trended into a lot of strikeouts and a lot of home runs. What role does speed play in the game right now and more specifically what role would you like speed to play for your club?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I think if you're going to limit the scope of what your club can do, I don't know if that really makes a lot of sense. I get it. A lot of home runs, there are a lot of strikeouts. We as the White Sox, we love home runs. But we also want guys to be able to make contacts with two strikes. We also want them to be situationally be able to take care of things that the game is asking of you. Sometimes a home run isn't what you need. If I'm down by five runs and I need to start a line, a solo home run isn't going to do a lot. I know you score a run, but I want base runners to get us going. I think situationally guys have to understand where we're at.
I think to eliminate any element of the game would be foolish, but then again it depends on what your club is made up of, what kind of structure does your team have? Do you have guys with speed? Do you have guys that are base to base? I think a lot of those things determine what you're going to be able to do with, how important of that aspect of the game is for you.
Q. You were able to get out to the Dominican instructional league. Were you able to get any impression of Robert or Rodolfo get a look at them?
RICK RENTERIA: I saw Robert, he's a pretty impressive specimen. He looks, listen, this kid can fly. I saw him run down to first I think it was like 3.56 after a full swing on a ground ball. He ran down a ball in center, right-center field effortlessly. He hit a ball against the wind and a gust in the center, left-centerfield that I thought had no chance and it ended up going over the trees. These guys are pretty impressive, and as far as Eloy, I saw a little bit of some television coverage because he's playing winter ball down there. He's another impressive specimen.
I think we have a lot of young men in the organization right now that are starting to grow up and come into their own both physically and emotionally. I think we're moving in the right direction, and it was impressive to be able to go over there and see all of them.
But just to say that I'm impressed with the way everybody's developing in the Dominican at this point.
Q. What do you feel like you know about Robert, the fact that he hasn't played above the Dominican level, guys he's familiar with and everyone talks about an amazing athlete, amazing talent. What do you know about him as a baseball player?
RICK RENTERIA: I was there for four games, just watching, that they played in their instruction league. Watching his work. He's obviously a little bit more mature. He's, from what I can gather, he's quiet, very attentive to everything that you're conversing about. Has a way of being and being a part of the rest of the group that were there.
I think that for him right now it's just a matter of getting himself to the States, starting to play against other competition, start to get a feel for what's going on here, the level of play that he's going to be hopefully participating in this coming summer, and see where he can chip away at what he needs to improve upon. He's still a young, very young player. I'm sure there are a lot of aspects of his game that he's going to have to improve upon.
So once he gets here we'll see and decipher, and I'm sure we'll have a plan as to how we want to check off certain boxes for him and what he needs to do to continue to move forward.
Q. Is he able to get to your minicamp, do you know that yet?
RICK RENTERIA: I'm not sure yet.
Q. Does seeing those guys and learning more about them as players make that waiting game kind of easier for you guys?
RICK RENTERIA: I think more than anything I just want them to be able to see us. And let them know, listen, we do pay attention and we do care about everything that's going on from the Major League level all the way down to rookie ball. They're a part of the organization, we want them to feel and understand that you can't -- you don't really win at the Major League level with the 25 that you leave Spring Training with. You play with a lot of different people, and at some point in time hopefully it will be some of these young men that will be a part of the White Sox in the future.
Q. If this was March 29th who would be your leadoff man?
RICK RENTERIA: Who would be my leadoff man? I would have to go through Spring Training but I'm hoping that it's going to be either Engel or Leury. I know these guys are working especially Engel is working on a little bit of his stroke this winter, and we're going to try to see if we can get him to be able to put the bat on the ball a little bit more, take advantage of his speed; he can bunt. We want to make sure he has that ability to do that, to get on base. He's obviously a defensive whiz out there, which we really enjoy watching.
And again Leury did a very nice job in center field before he went down also. So we have some options, I don't want to pigeonhole myself into who is going to be leading off. During the course of the season last year we used different guys in that slot. So it will just depend on what we are looking at that moment.
Q. When you're managing a rebuild season and you're in the depths of this past season, for example, maybe wins aren't coming as frequently as the players would like, how do you remind them about the bigger picture and that they're working towards something?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I don't think I talk about rebuild. I don't use that word. What I concentrate more on is what was it that we failed at doing in the particular game and/or compliment them on what they might have done to help us in a particular game. I don't think about rebuilds, I think about moments in that game, winning that ballgame what we failed to do, what we were able to do well, and those are things that I concentrate on more than anything. I think if we focus on how we're supposed to play the game, this title of rebuild or whatever transition whatever, that doesn't play a part. We're just thinking about playing baseball on that particular day.
Q. A lot of people on the outside look at the big picture, you focus on very small specific moments day-to-day?
RICK RENTERIA: I have to because that's what they're going to grow from. I think the big picture takes care of itself in the long run. It's going to be a cumulative response to wins or losses as to what we were or were not. But I also have to define what it is we were doing well, what type of team we're becoming or what type of team we're developing into and I have to focus on those things.
Q. A lot has been made with some of the recent hires with managers, communication skills with players and you received high marks for that. Would you say that's your intention or does that kind of come natural for who you are and your personality?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I would have to say that you would have to ask the people that I speak to, the players that I speak to. I know that one of the things that I try to do is just to make sure that it makes sense, whatever I talk about to the players makes sense. Articulating a message is really important. But I think that all of us at some point in time learn that the importance of 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.
But I do think that communicating with players is an important aspect of being a Major League manager. I don't think that long term you can survive without it. The dynamic of baseball with the young men that are coming into the game, they're very intelligent. Listen, these guys have heard many times of terminology and usage of words and terms as it relates to baseball we have to be kind of equipped and up to speed on all those things that you can actually have a conversation.
But at the end of the day I think if the conversation is baseball, and it makes sense, and how you describe it seems to touch them a little bit, then you're on the right track.
Q. Omar Vizquel said he saw being bilingual as being a big advantage for the job he's going to have. Do you view it kind of the same way, given how integral communicating is to your goal?
RICK RENTERIA: It is, but again I'll revert back and say that I can speak English and I can speak Spanish. The point is, can I actually create a message in that particular language that people understand. It's not just simply being able to speak the language, it's being able to articulate a message that the player can grasp and understand and use. I think his experience and his ability to communicate in both languages is very important.
Q. Can you describe what you learned about Jose Abreu last year that maybe you didn't know?
RICK RENTERIA: I learned that Jose can get better as a baseball player. I remember, probably a lot of us, and I know I mentioned this before, talking about Pete's defense a little bit earlier in the season. And Pete turned it up a notch. I think that he kind of understood what it was he needed to do, he grasped a different approach in the field and it was actually pretty good.
So anybody can get better. I think that with the right motivation and the right approach people have a chance to improve their game. I don't think you have to beat people up to do that, but any way that you can help them to improve their ability to play the game more consistently is pretty good, and he pretty much showed me that anything is possible because he did get better as did Avi, as did quite a few of those guys.
Q. Do you have any worries or concerns that Abreu might not be on the roster or do you expect him to be with the team on the Opening Day?
RICK RENTERIA: Did you say am I concerned? I'm not concerned about Petey. I'm Petey's a White Sox until otherwise stated. I know nothing new or speculative in regards to Pete. Pete's our first baseman.
Q. With all the information that's available now do you think that young players today actually understand the game at a deeper level now than they did a generation ago or is the lingo just different that they use?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, I guess that the best way I could put it is I could, and I'm sure you could too, you could see a pitcher and you can see him throw a breaking ball and it falls off the table and you go, "That's a pretty good breaking ball." Someone else comes in and says, "That guy's got good spin rate." Well, I didn't need to know spin rate to tell you that he had a good breaking ball. But if you need to use spin rate to identify that that guy as a good breaking ball, thank goodness for you, that's okay.
I'm all right with it. I think it just depends on how you use it. It's all relative to a playing it in a practical way to help us hopefully be better at what we do.
Q. So for the most part the answer is no the players really don't understand the game better. They just speak a lot of differently?
RICK RENTERIA: Well, because they have been exposed now to new terminology, new bits of terminology. In language or in math even, I guess, there are some maths, and I don't know I saw a movie the other day, I don't want to name it but they talked about math. And they were trying to figure out and it was for NASA actually, and they were trying to figure out what math did you use to get the original astronauts to come back through to orbit come back into earth. And it was an old math equation that they ended up using, they were trying to figure out new math and they realized, gosh, the old math works.
So kind of all I'm saying is there are new ways of being able to describe different things, nothing wrong with it, but as coaches we also have to understand the math that and the language that they're using, so it's best for us to also learn that language.
Q. How do you think your young starting pitchers are going to benefit from your new catcher?
RICK RENTERIA: Well our guys we had last year did a nice job. Welington, I've known him well, he was on the north side when I was over there. I like him. He's an excellent receiver. I think he's very well prepared. Obviously he's, over the last few years, he's had some pretty good years offensively as well, he's going to be able to help us, I think his, just his experience now, hopefully continuing to do what some of the guys that we had were starting to do, which is bring some calm to some of these guys. The two catchers that we had have continued to grow and I think it's going to be a, for us, it's a good problem to have to have three guys that you're going to feel confident in and Welington has obviously got some skills that are going to be very helpful.
Q. Welington said he worked with Jose Molina over the offseason, he kind of credited that to this big uptick he had in his pitch framing and a lot of things he did, receiving-wise. Is that the kind of work ethic you've seen with him?
RICK RENTERIA: He's a really hard worker. One thing about Wally, he works hard and he never wants to not play. That's what I've known about him. Because I remember I wanted to take him out because he had a little bit of a sore quad or something and he played. So he does not want to sit. He prepares very well and he's a very hard worker at his craft.
Q. Who is your backup catcher then?
RICK RENTERIA: Yet to be determined.
Q. You now have the position of being the elder statesman among Latino managers, what advice would you give to Alex Cora and Davey Martinez as to how to run a team and communicate, given that that's one of your specialties?
RICK RENTERIA: They don't need to hear from me what they need to do, I think they have a very good feel, they have been in the field a long time, I'm sure they will trust their instincts. They have been in the game and studying different things over the course of their careers and I think the only thing I could do is wish them well. I think they will do well.
Q. Speak a little more what the benefit of adding Omar to your coaching staff and kind of his development and role?
RICK RENTERIA: Again, here's a guy -- I actually played with Omar a few years back, quite a few years back. Excellent baseball player, probably one of the best shortstops in the game. He is someone who knows the game. I think he's going to be able to communicate his knowledge and his experience to the players. I think he's going to be able to, just through his, one, through his time in the game add some credibility to who he is and how he's going to be able to talk to the players, but I do think he's going to be able to articulate messages that are going to help these guys improve their game and help them get to the next level and continue to help them with us in the organization.
Q. You saw lot of the prospects at both instructional league in Arizona and then you went to the Dominican. What was the feel you had just from watching all these guys kind of working together? I mean, a number of your top guys were in this thing.
RICK RENTERIA: I can say that their improvement, there's a lot of energy, I think that the routines that the organization is putting together in terms of development structure is really good. I think we should be very excited for the future and the young men that we have and we're going to continue to improve as they're with us and they're going to be up with us at some time here in the near future.
Q. You've seen Garcia reach his potential, what's the next step for him?
RICK RENTERIA: Consistency. I think that was pretty much it the whole time. Confidence for him has been a key to his growth. His routines and some adjustments that he's made have helped him maintain that consistency. I think that most, I've only been here a couple years, the first year he started off pretty good and then he kind of tailed off. Last year he maintained and had a little wall but then he continued to move forward. I think that's just his experience and understanding that he is a good player.
He has confidence that he's a good player, but he's also understood that the work that's been putting in was going to ultimately pay off, it started to. I think for him it's just continuing to maintain the consistency in which he did last year. I think that is very possible.
I don't know that he'll hit .330. Somebody just asked me that a little while ago, they say between .315 and .330, yeah I'll see that. All I know is that if he maintains that consistent approach that he's had both emotionally confidently and the work structure, he's got a good chance of doing what he did last year.
Q. What's your mindset with a farm system that's highly regarded, how much time are those guys supposed to get on the big field in Spring Training how much do you want to integrate them into the idea of being around these guys, and then if somebody really gives you six weeks of incredible play, the ability to maybe even make the team come Opening Day?
RICK RENTERIA: I use all my guys in Spring Training. I am a person that likes using the young ones, the veterans, I talk to all of them just like most managers do, they talk to all their players. Let them know how they're going to use them but do I like using the younger players in Spring Training, get them adept to what they're going to be doing hopefully in the future. A lot of them may not be there very long, so you try to get that out of the way early if you can. But I think that if they're coming into camp, it's very useful for us to show them confidence in what they're capable of doing and be prepared to insert them where we need to there.
Q. Now in today's game with so many young influx of talent 21, 22-year-old guys who prove they can play, that six-week window do you have to sort of say okay, it's only six weeks, and it's only Spring Training training and make the evaluation much longer term than that?
RICK RENTERIA: Everybody uses Spring Training in different ways. For some guys you use Spring Training to make a decision. For others it's just Spring Training. It's just as you kind of described. I like it, kind of like being able to see them away from Spring Training, as I visited the instructional league in the Dominican, but also for us at the Major League level it's nice when we can get a guy in September because I can base some decision on their actions there as opposed to the spring.
But again, everybody uses the spring for different things. You may use it to obviously have somebody make your club, but others it's just Spring Training.
Q. How convinced are you that from the last month of the season that Tim Anderson's turned the corner and is going to approach the star status that most people envision him?
RICK RENTERIA: I'm very hopeful that's going to continue to the run that he did toward the end of the season. Obviously he had a lot of things going on during the year. He was able to come out of that very well and he did take off the last month of the season. And that young man there is the one that we hope is going to be the one that continues to move forward. He's obviously showing that he's improved, so there is a good chance that what he finished will be something that's able to carry on through out the season, but the season will tell us, but it's like anything, every year's different and every year you make different adjustments. Hopefully he's reached another point in his career at the Major League level that he's learned a little bit more about himself and what he's capable of doing.
Q. Does he still have another level to go defensively as far as the skill set?
RICK RENTERIA: I do. I think there's probably, has more to do with just more consistency. He can get to a large array of balls, it's just more the should I make the throw, not make the throw? Should I hold on to this one, should I try to turn this double play? Should I get my body in a better position, all those different things. But he's so athletic that he's capable of getting some balls that most people won't. So now it's just a matter of some of those plays are just matter of he needs to complete it.