Ken Williams assembles Sox coaching staff that won’t rankle him
By Daryl Van Schouwen firstname.lastname@example.org October 31, 2011 7:38PM
Sox GM Ken Williams (left) says it doesn’t bother him that Robin Ventura and two of the new coaches on his staff have not managed or coached in the big leagues. | Al Podgorski~Sun~Times
Updated: December 2, 2011 8:20AM
The White Sox named Joe McEwing, Mark Parent and Jeff Manto as coaches on first-year manager Robin Ventura’s staff Monday.
McEwing, who managed at Class AAA Charlotte this past season, replaces Jeff Cox as the Sox’ third-base coach. Parent, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Class AA team in Reading, Pa., will be Ventura’s bench coach. And Manto, a former hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, replaces Greg Walker in that position for the Sox after serving four years as their roving minor-league hitting instructor.
The three complete Ventura’s staff, and they are major-league ready, general manager Ken Williams said.
‘‘Obviously, I do not have a problem with their lack of major-league coaching experience; they all have years of baseball and major-league playing experience,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Many of the men who are no longer here got their first [major-league] coaching experience in 2004, and it didn’t take them long to become very good at their jobs.’’
Baseball insiders and fans alike view the new staff as Williams’ ointment for his irritated skin after eight seasons with Ozzie Guillen — one of the aforementioned inexperienced 2004 hires — running the team. Guillen won a World Series in 2005 before his relationship with Williams deteriorated.
Williams figures to have a stronger grip with Guillen gone. Pitching coach Don Cooper, who signed a four-year extension at the end of the season (a deal that’s one year longer than Ventura’s), returns with first-base coach Harold Baines, bullpen coach Juan Nieves, bullpen catcher Mark Salas, assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger and batting-practice pitcher Kevin Hickey. Williams always has been loyal to Cooper and vice versa, and Cooper figures to have a bigger voice in the clubhouse and dugout.
Most observers expected Ventura’s bench coach to be a former manager. Sox director of player development Buddy Bell, who managed nine seasons in the majors and had a big hand in assembling Ventura’s staff, served as a bench coach to an inexperienced Eric Wedge with the Cleveland Indians in 2003 and said he helped Wedge for about a month before Wedge ‘‘stopped listening.’’ So the experience factor only goes so far.
Parent is ‘‘a very intelligent guy,’’ Bell said. ‘‘He’s got some personality and an edge that you need on anybody’s staff. I think he’s going to do well. I’ve heard questions out there about guys with more experience, but I don’t think that matters. He’s way ahead of what he needs to be as a bench coach in terms of what he has gone through in his career. He’ll do a good job. It’s a good combination.’’
McEwing, who joined the Sox’ organization in 2008 as the hitting coach in Charlotte, will be the high-energy piece Ventura wanted.
‘‘We’re all basically the same player — grinders, not silver spoon-type players,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘We had to work for everything we got. We’ll bring that to the guys, that’s all we know. Grind it out and get the best out of what we’ve got that day.’’
Manto knows Sox hitters who have come up through their system. He didn’t have a lot to work with during his days with the Pirates, aside from 2006 National League batting champion Freddy Sanchez.
‘‘Statistics are all by-products of good approach,’’ Manto said. ‘‘Communicating and making these guys aware of what they are trying to do. Just find out what they are thinking, why are they looking for a fastball in a breaking-ball count, for example. I want to create a dialogue to change the thought process as to what they are doing.’’
NOTE: The Sox exercised their option on reliever Jason Frasor. Frasor, 34, will earn a base salary of $3.75 million in 2012. He was 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA in 20 games for the Sox and 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA overall in 2011. His career ERA is 3.74.