Manto excited about Baines' new position

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Manto excited about Baines' new position

There was no shortage of excitement in Jeff Mantos voice on Tuesday morning as he discussed working with Harold Baines next season.

The White Sox named Baines, who last season was the teams first-base coach, assistant hitting coach for the 2013 season.

The team also announced the returns of Manto, the clubs hitting coach, pitching coach Don Cooper, third-base coach Joe McEwing and bench coach Mark Parent and also elevated Daryl Boston to first-base coach and Bobby Thigpen to bullpen coach.

Boston spent last season as a roving minor-league outfield instructor for the White Sox while Thigpen -- who takes over after Juan Nieves was named the Boston Red Sox pitching coach -- was the pitching coach at Double-A Birmingham in 2012.

Though Baines officially moved into his new role on Tuesday, its a duty he performed last season alongside Manto, who was in his first season as hitting coach.

Manto said he leaned heavily upon his one-time teammate last season and has no doubt the two share the same ideals about hitting, a critical component for their new relationship to work.

I dont think Bainsey would have walked into it if the message wasnt the same, Manto said. Were on the same page with our language and our thoughts. Its not even going to be a transition.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the move began to evolve last season at Baines request. Several teams made the move to two hitting coaches ahead of the White Sox, including the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres. Ventura said on a phone call Thursday he could see a connection between Manto and Baines form early on.

Harold enjoyed it, Ventura said. Bouncing stuff off coaches, we do a lot of that going back and forth together. For Jeff, having somebody like Harold is valuable.

The bond between Manto and Baines dates back to 1995, when the two played together for the Baltimore Orioles. Manto blasted a career-high 17 home runs in 89 games that season for the Orioles while Baines hit .299 with 24 homers.

What impressed Manto most about Baines is how hard the first overall pick of the 1977 amateur baseball draft worked at his craft on the way to 2,866 career hits. Not only that, but when the two talked hitting, Baines, unlike many great hitters, could relay in laymans terms what made him successful. Those cerebral conversations had Manto convinced Baines could relate to hitters about what he saw from the first-base box.

He wasnt a guy who didnt know how he did it, he was a great hitter who knows exactly what he did, Manto said. Hes definitely in tune with what the players are doing today. Hes not just on top of mechanics. One thing we focused on last season was What were you thinking? and thats why we were successful.

With Baines on board, Manto believes the White Sox should have even more time to hone players hitting abilities as they move forward. The two will split the workload evenly, which should allow each ample time to work with hitters in the cage and video room. Though Baines and Manto will sometimes use different drills to teach hitters, the message will remain constant.

It just alleviates the workload, Manto said. Nobody will be left out and nobody will be slighted. I trust him as much as I trust anyone.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."