CHICAGO -- Salvador Perez spent 12 minutes talking about Pedro Grifol via a Thursday afternoon Zoom set up by the White Sox.
This is not a misprint or typo. The All-Star catcher for the Royals, a prime American League Central rival of the White Sox and a player who has done plenty of career damage against the South Siders, answered questions from a group of White Sox beat writers concerning the team’s new manager.
Perez’s endeavor shows how much Grifol meant to him during their time together in Kansas City. It also exhibits the high esteem in which he holds Grifol despite a desire to beat him moving forward.
“He always said, 'Good players make good coaches,' he always told me that, but I think it’s the opposite,” Perez said. “I think good coaches make good players. And he’s the best.
“That’s why today I can say that it’s kind of like, I’m here because the way Pedro helped me and the way he talked to me and the relationship I have with him. He always taught me the right way. Today I can say he helped me a lot.”
Grifol was with the Royals from 2013-22, working the last three years as the bench coach. He served as catching coach from 2014-17, with Kansas City winning AL pennants in ’14 and ’15 and capturing the World Series title in ’15.
During that time, Perez was selected to start five straight All-Star Games (2014-18), was named a Rawlings Gold Glove winner four times (2014-16, ‘18) and a Louisville Silver Slugger Award winner twice (2016, ‘18). Perez acknowledged Grifol’s importance in helping him as a player, but the catcher explained that the 52-year-old -- who agreed to a multiyear contract with the White Sox for his first big league managerial job -- meant more to him than catching development.
“When I got the opportunity to meet Pedro for the first time, after that he’s kind of been my dad,” Perez said. “He's helped me with anything. So that's kind of our relationship.
“I've got five Gold Gloves, and I think four of them are because of Pedro. The way he kind of worked with me, the way he always was talking to me, like keeping your head in the game, situations, staying on top of it, even in the offseason. He meant a lot to me … I appreciate him for a lot of things.”
The White Sox named Grifol as their 42nd different manager on Nov. 3, and during his press conference, Grifol became a bit emotional when mentioning Perez. The two teams meet for the first time in the 2023 season on May 8 in Kansas City, where these family members will get together as opposing forces.
“I love him a lot. I love his family. I call Pedro’s daughters, I call [them] hermanitas, I call all three my little sister. We have a good relationship,” Perez said. “But it’s part of the game, it’s part of the business and I’m happy for him. I know his dream was to be a manager in the big leagues, and he did it.
“So I know it’s going to be emotional. I hope I can go give him a hug, tell him I love him and come back and try to beat the White Sox.”
White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz said conversations with Grifol have been great since he took over the White Sox. Katz and Curt Hasler, the assistant pitching coach/bullpen coach, returned from Tony La Russa’s staff to join Grifol.
Katz also believes his communication style will mesh with Grifol as time progresses.
“I coached in the Minor Leagues for a long, long time, and every manager I've ever been with I've had great relationships with,” said Katz during a Thursday Zoom. “It's just going to naturally take its course. We'll work together, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
Other topics addressed by Katz ranged from having a normal offseason without a looming lockout to individual pitching assessments on Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito and Garrett Crochet, to name a few. Katz also took a brief look at his starting rotation, currently sitting at four with Lance Lynn and ’22 AL Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease joining Giolito and Kopech.
“Obviously, we need another starter,” Katz said. “That right now is our biggest need from the pitching standpoint. We're having dialogue. We'll see how things play out, but we do need another starter.”