After recent turnaround, Grifol reflects on 'tough storm' to start '24

May 12th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Weekend perfection was not on the docket for the White Sox, who had their four-game winning streak ended by a 7-0 loss to the Guardians on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But Pedro Grifol’s crew is playing better. They have a 9-7 record over their last 16 games, a 6-3 mark in their last nine, and they took the first three games from the American League Central leaders. It’s a stark turnaround to their 3-22 start, which produced learning moments scattered among the setbacks, as Grifol addressed during a conversation with prior to the series finale.

“It was probably the hardest time I’ve ever had in the game,” Grifol said. “I’ve always had a lot of faith. My foundation is based on faith. But to be able to tie in my faith with the game, which I’ve never been able to do, because I never looked at it that way, it was really good for me because it just brought peace.

“Just do your job, just flush it, short-term memory, come back out and do it again. Keep the faith. I was able to stay [on an] even keel and not get too down or too up.”

Over these last 16 games, the White Sox have looked closer to the team envisioned coming out of Spring Training. Relievers such as rookie Jordan Leasure and veteran John Brebbia settled into late-inning leverage roles in front of hard-throwing closer Michael Kopech. Their starting pitchers allowed one Josh Naylor solo home run during the first three wins over the Guardians (25-16), before Michael Soroka (0-5) yielded five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings on Sunday.

Catcher Korey Lee has elevated his play with a .311/.340/.556 slash line in his last 14 games. Outfielder Tommy Pham has brought an all-business competitiveness to the lineup, rookie Bryan Ramos has injected some life at third base, and struggling hitters such as Andrew Vaughn and Andrew Benintendi have had moments to turn the outcome in the White Sox favor.

“Guys are settling down,” Grifol said. “They are starting to get into the routine of the season, which is important.”

“The fight is where we knew we could be and where everything was in camp, and kind of what we told you guys we were going to look like,” Soroka said. “It’s been a lot more fun getting around here and everybody kind of has the feeling that we’re in it now. That was starting to get a little fleeting in the middle of April. We fought hard to get that back, and we’ve got to keep that going.”

Here’s the understood caveat to this 16 games of improved feelings on the heels of 25 games of misery. The White Sox have a 12-29 record overall and sit 13 games out of first place, so building for the future is as big of a focus as the present for general manager Chris Getz, who has gone on record once again saying he’ll be listening to offers on pretty much anyone.

Does that list include All-Star outfielder Luis Robert Jr., who is working back from a torn right hip flexor, or Garrett Crochet, who has been a dynamic mound presence in his move from the bullpen to the rotation? Grifol certainly has input in the decisions, but has too much focus on daily activities to think about possible changes.

“I don’t get too caught up in, ‘Oh man, if we trade this guy,’” Grifol said. “I’m never going to do that. That to me is like injuries. They happen, next man up, you gotta keep moving forward. My job is to lead, to serve and to lead.

“They have a job to do in the front office. These guys have a job to do on the field. I have a job to do. Whatever comes our way, comes our way and we gotta deal with it. There’s a short-term view to this thing and a long term view to this thing. I’m in the short-term view, in the 'win right now' business.”

Grifol was focused on the Guardians on Sunday, and that focus shifted solely to Washington on Monday, with a series against the Yankees coming after that. It wasn’t an immediate smooth transition for the second-year manager to get to that perspective amid the club’s rut.

“Those first 15, 18 games were really, really tough. It was a tough storm. But we are all better for it. We really are,” Grifol said. “It’s wasted energy in my opinion in thinking about what can we do three, four series from now, or the next 10 games. Worry about what you can do today.”