GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Rick Renteria has been here before.
He was managing the Chicago Cubs in 2014 when they were building a team that would end its century-long championship drought.
But just as that team was coming together for a four-year postseason run, Renteria’s contract was terminated when the Cubs had a chance to bring in free-agent manager Joe Maddon.
Now 58, Renteria landed with the White Sox and replaced Robin Ventura as manager just as the team began its own massive rebuilding project. Now in his fourth season on the South Side, Renteria’s patience is finally getting rewarded.
Expectations are high for the White Sox for the first time in a decade, and Renteria is ready for it.
“I’m very happy right now,” Renteria said Thursday at Camelback Ranch. “The task is not complete but there is satisfaction.
“It’s like seeing your kids grow up, there are a lot of ups and downs that go along with it, some tears, some great laughter and some great harmony and joy.”
Renteria’s personality can be stern at times, such as when players have been benched for not hustling, but the warmer side usually wins out in the long run.
Tim Anderson will always remember conversations with Renteria three years ago after the shortstop’s close friend was killed in Alabama.
“He helped to me to become a better person,” Anderson said. “He helped me through a lot of my dark moments, just being able to talk to somebody, tell him whatever’s on my mind. His door is open. Having a manager like that makes it easy to come to work.”
Anderson led the major leagues in batting average (.335) last season, a huge step forward from a .240 season in 2018. That was satisfying to Renteria, who is still pushing Anderson to improve his defense where he led the majors in errors last season.
All-Star pitcher Lucas Giolito was going through a particularly difficult stretch in a 2018 season. He had the highest ERA in baseball (6.13) among qualified pitchers. But Renteria had his back.
“I had two or three starts in a row where I didn’t make it out of the early innings,” Giolito said. “We get into a hotel late one night and I happened to be in the same elevator as Ricky and he just grabs me behind the head and whispers to me, ‘You’re going to be an All-Star.’
“I’m thinking, I got a lot of work to do. But he’s looking me in the eyes and saying that to me as I’m sitting on a 6-plus ERA.”
Giolito turned it around last year, making Renteria’s prediction come true with a 3.41 ERA while striking out nearly twice as many batters as the previous season and cutting the amount of walks.
“That meant a lot to me at the time and it means a lot to me now,” Giolito said. “He had that confidence in me when I didn’t even have it. That’s our manager.”
As Renteria said, there still is work to do. The White Sox were 72-89 last season, 28 1-2 games behind AL Central champion Minnesota.
But with the continued development of young stars, plus the additions of marquee free agents such as Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Dallas Keuchel, the future looks very bright.
And this time, it looks like Renteria will be around to enjoy the good times.
“Even though it’s been hard over the last few years, you always have to keep the big picture in mind. I know that we’re in a better place at this moment,” Renteria said.
“We are hoping to fulfill the promise that lies before us.”
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