CHICAGO -- The surprising White Sox news from Monday was not limited to the mutual parting of ways with manager Rick Renteria, as pitching coach Don Cooper also will not be returning.
Cooper was the longest-tenured pitching coach in Major League Baseball, being named to the White Sox position on July 22, 2002 and having worked with four managers. Cooper actually managed two games in '11 after Ozzie Guillen departed before the season’s end.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made the Cooper announcement Monday during his hour-long Zoom press conference when asked about the future of the coaching staff. Cooper just completed his 33rd season in the White Sox organization.
“These things can get a little overshadowed by the managerial change. That's sort of the big headline. I get that,” Hahn said. “But I would be remiss as the general manager, this organization would be remiss and White Sox fans would be remiss if we didn't take a moment to appreciate the contribution that Don Cooper has made to this organization over the last three decades.”
Cooper presided over the 2005 World Series-winning pitching staff that featured four straight complete games during an American League Championship Series victory over the Angels. It’s a feat very unlikely to be matched again in this age of pitching specialization, increased bullpen usage and openers. He also helped develop young hurlers such as Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Chris Sale and even Lucas Giolito as part of the current rotation.
Monday's move was made independent of the Renteria decision, per Hahn. The White Sox want to give latitude to the newly hired manager to bring in his people, with the coaching staff basically in flux until that new hire. But Hahn said there were ongoing talks over the years with Cooper, much like Renteria that led to this ultimate tough call about their future.
With that latitude in mind, some or even all of the remaining White Sox coaches could be returning. The pitching coach could come from within, with assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler, pithing coordinator Everett Teaford and Triple-A Charlotte pitching coach Matt Zaleski standing out as a few strong candidates.
“We do have some pretty good pitching coach candidates inside the organization,” Hahn said. “It might ultimately be a promotion with the new pitching coach.
“It could still come from outside, but I wanted to make the point that when I referenced the opportunity to hear from outside voices and hear a little bit more of an objective or non-insular view of where we are at as an organization, the manager interview process is a great opportunity to do that. It may well extend to the pitching coach interview process -- I expect it will.”