Earlier this week, the White Sox and Tony La Russa announced who would fill out his staff for the 2021 season, which featured some holdovers, along with some fresh faces.
Miguel Cairo takes over for Joe McEwing as Bench Coach, but McEwing isn’t going anywhere. McEwing is the new third-base coach as he enters his 14th season in the White Sox organization.
Cairo played for La Russa in two separate stints with the St. Louis Cardinals when La Russa managed there. After retiring as a player, he spent time in the Cincinnati Reds front office, and as a minor-league coach in the Yankees organization.
Ethan Katz takes over for Don Cooper as pitching coach, and he has some history with the current ace of the Sox starting staff. Before coaching in the majors, Katz was Lucas Giolito’s pitching coach at Harvard-Westlake High School in Southern California. He later spent time as a minor league pitching coach in three different organizations before spending 2020 as the San Francisco Giants’ assistant pitching coach.
Katz will be assisted by Curt Hasler, who remains with the Sox organization, and begins his 30th year with the White Sox. A key goal for Katz and Hasler will be harnessing the talent of some of the young pitchers on the Sox roster, like Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez, if he sticks around. Ensuring depth of starting pitching will help the Sox get over the hump in October in 2021.
One of the more intriguing names added to La Russa’s staff is that of Shelley Duncan as the Sox new analytics coordinator. He’s the son of La Russa’s longtime assistant Dave Duncan. Shelley had a respectable seven-year MLB playing career before a successful minor-league managerial career, winning a pair of minor league titles while in the Diamondbacks organization.
Duncan’s position is a new one in the White Sox organization, so what he’ll actually do won’t be fully clear until Spring Training, likely. But he brings more than a good name to the South Side. He is a voracious learner and showed himself to be successful in on-field and front-office roles while in the Blue Jays organization recently.
One thing that Tony La Russa wanted when filling out his staff was some continuity from last year’s staff after the team had so much success in 2020. Along with McEwing and Hasler staying on, so too will Frank Menechino as hitting coach, and Daryl Boston as first-base coach. Howie Clark moves up from Triple-A Charlotte to be the assistant hitting coach under Menechino at the big-league level.
Keeping Menechino on makes sense for La Russa, after the Sox were one of the most potent offenses in MLB in 2020. They led the AL in home runs and slugging percentage and ranked second in runs scored and OPS. No sense in fixing something that ain’t broken.
Now the attention turns to free agency, and who Rick Hahn finds to address some of the needs this team has, as well as seeing if there’s a way to keep James McCann on the roster.
I’d take McCann if I had one wish…