CHICAGO -- Rick Renteria doesn’t intend to change his style as White Sox manager, even with far and away the best array of talent he has supervised entering his fourth season running the team.
But Renteria’s belief that the 2020 season will mark the start of something special for the White Sox has only grown stronger following the offseason work executed by the front office.
“Our expectation is to win,” said Renteria on a conference call from the team’s final day of its hitters mini-camp Wednesday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. “If you just simply look at us on paper, we are a much-improved club. We still have to do it and get it done. There’s no magic potion other than guys executing for me. My job is to make sure that they stay as confident as possible, put them in the best place to have success.
“My expectations haven’t changed. We want to fight for the postseason. We either want to win a division, we want to be a Wild Card, whatever the case might be. We want to be in a place where we are winning more ballgames and putting ourselves in a relevant position to win.”
In four previous seasons as a manager, including one with the Cubs in 2014, Renteria has never won more than 73 games. Then again, he has never presided over a team designed to win. The 2019 White Sox took a 42-44 record into the All-Star break, but injuries to Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez led to a 4-16 second-half start and dashed any remote hopes of a .500 campaign.
Such is the life of a rebuilding club. The 2020 season became the target of contention for the White Sox, with veteran additions such as Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnación, Steve Cishek and Gio Gonzalez hopefully melding with the return of organization staple José Abreu and the talented and developing young core of Anderson, Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Luis Robert.
That process has been operating at more of a grassroots level over the past three days in Glendale, where a group of young players and Grandal have been working with the organization’s hitting coaches to get ready for the season. It’s a different feel within this group, having nothing to do with the expectation of winning but instead an emphasis on a singular hitting philosophy under new hitting coach Frank Menechino.
“Before ... some people might not have been on the same page. Now, it seems pretty good,” said catcher Zack Collins, who has been taking part in the camp. “Maybe some hitters were kind of skeptical of saying how they felt and kind of telling a coach, ‘Oh, no this doesn’t work’ or ‘That does work.’ But now it’s an open conversation and everybody kind of respects what each other says and everybody is on the same page.”
“Nothing against anything we've done in the past, but you can see there's a cohesiveness with the coaches and the guys that are here right now,” Renteria said. “The communication seems to be really good. The energy level and the work that's being done you can see is translating into some positive work. These guys seem to be pretty excited about everything that's going on. It's working very well.”
Work will intensify in just under one month, with White Sox pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Feb. 11. Renteria spoke about how the team’s defense needs to improve and how that topic will be a focus from Day 1.
It will be part of the manager’s overall message of targeting success beginning in 2020.
“Again, I’ll repeat this. If anybody is afraid of setting expectations, this is not a place to be,” Renteria said. “It’s about winning ultimately, and I think that the organization has done a great job to put us on better footing to be able to give us a chance to do that.
“Our players are changing in the output and the things they bring to the table, which will make it look like I changed, but my philosophy is still the same. You gotta play good baseball.”