INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- No names have been discussed, but Don Cooper knows the White Sox have a critical vacancy created by Wednesdays departure of Juan Nieves.
The White Sox bullpen coach for the past five seasons, Nieves, 47, accepted an offer to take over as pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox.
The White Sox first hired Nieves in November 1998 as the teams Single-A pitching coach. Though the current White Sox pitching coach thinks the team wouldnt move to immediately replace Nieves, Cooper did stress the importance of the relationship with whoever takes over. Cooper described how he and Nieves were in lock step with one another when it came to philosophy and style.
Its an important job, Cooper said by phone from Nashville, Tenn. We worked together, lived together and talked about (pitching) endlessly. We were totally on the same page and came up with plans for each guy. Juan fit like a glove. Hes a qualified guy. He earned his chance.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn described the move as bittersweet. He also lauded Nieves -- who was 32-25 with a 4.71 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1986-88 -- for his endless effort with pitchers.
You like to see your guys, good guys, get rewarded like that, Hahn said. But hell be missed. Hes a real hard worker. Upbeat guy. Creative. He deserves a fair amount of credit our young guys had in the bullpen this past year. Hes a nice calming, stabilizing force for them.
Reliever Nate Jones agreed with Hahns assessment. Jones said Nieves often spent the entire game engaged with the teams younger pitchers about strategy and situational pitching.
Hes an extremely important piece to the development, Jones said by phone. During all the situations that all of us pitchers get ourselves into, hes always talking strategy and he always had information on hitters. (Nieves and Cooper) both have an eye for mechanical problems, approach and the mental side. Both are well rounded and Im not surprised he got the opportunity.
Hahn sounded confident the White Sox have plenty of internal candidates to take Nieves spot. He expects he, Cooper and manager Robin Ventura among others to discuss the teams options.
As for Bostons choice, Cooper is confident the Red Sox picked a winner. He echoed Hahns sentiments the move is bittersweet.
Its nice to see good people get opportunities, Cooper said. Hes going to be missed, but Im happy for him. The only knock against him is he has no experience. But how do you get experience until you get a chance?