The Chicago White Sox didn’t specifically target former major leaguers while filling openings on their coaching staff.
But as it turns out, each of the five new additions has big-league playing experience.
“We just identified guys that we felt had impeccable makeup,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said during a video conference call. “One thing I noticed is that these guys are like grinders.
“Each one of these guys brings a little different mindset to what they had to do to play major-league baseball for a long time and be in the game for a long time, which was really intriguing to me.”
The Sox announced their 2024 staff on Tuesday.
The newcomers include Marcus Thames, who will try to help the Sox get back on track offensively after being named the team’s hitting coach.
The Sox also added Jason Bourgeois as the first base/outfield coach, Drew Butera as the catching coach, Matt Wise as the assistant pitching coach and Grady Sizemore as a major-league coach.
Ethan Katz returns as the pitching coach, Mike Tosar as the assistant hitting coach, Eddie Rodríguez as the third base/infield coach and Charlie Montoyo as the bench coach. Tosar was the team’s major-league field coordinator last season.
Thames will be the team’s third hitting coach in three seasons, replacing José Castro, who replaced Frank Menechino. The 47-year-old spent 2023 as the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels.
“He has an incredible ability to relate to all types of players,” Sox general manager Chris Getz said of Thames during Tuesday’s MLB general managers meetings at a resort in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
“He has coached in different markets, players with different backgrounds, higher profile, younger players so that type of starter skill set was really important for where we’re headed. That really stood out.”
Powered by Shohei Ohtani’s league-leading 44 home runs, the Angels ranked third in the American League in the category with 231. They were seventh in the AL in OPS (.743), eighth in batting average (.245) and ninth in on-base percentage (.317).
The Sox finished tied for 11th in the AL with 171 home runs in 2023 and were 12th with a .384 slugging percentage. They were last in the majors with a .291 on-base percentage.
Thames previously was the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins (2022) and the New York Yankees (2021-22). He played parts of 10 seasons in the majors with the Yankees (2002, 2010), Texas Rangers (2003), Detroit Tigers (2004-09) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2011).
He’s worked with the likes of Ohtani and Aaron Judge. Nnow he’ll aim to aid the Sox, whether it’s Luis Robert Jr. building off an impressive 2023, having players like Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jiménez take the next step or getting the most out of Yoán Moncada.
Sox manager Pedro Grifol said the tandem of Thames and Tosar “makes a good team moving forward.”
Sizemore, 41, enters his first season on a big-league coaching staff. A three-time All-Star during 10 years in the big leagues, he was a coach for the Arizona Complex League Diamondbacks in 2022. He spent the bulk of his career with Cleveland (2004-11) and also played for Boston (2014), Philadelphia (2014-15) and Tampa Bay (2015).
“Going through the interview process, it was very clear that Grady’s going to be able to really connect with a lot of our players,” Getz said. “He had four years straight of 700 plate appearances (2005-08). To inject that type of mentality into our ecosystem, so to speak, is going to really bode well for us.”
Grifol said Sizemore will be a hybrid coach.
“A lot of base running, a lot of outfield stuff, anywhere we need him,” Grifol said.
Wise, 47, spent the last three seasons as the Angels pitching coach. He appeared in 209 games (18 starts) during parts of eight seasons with the Angels (2000-02), Milwaukee Brewers (2004-07) and New York Mets (2008).
“To get a major-league pitching coach of his pedigree to assist Ethan I think is going to be really helpful,” Getz said. “They’ve got a built-in relationship from working with (each other) in the past, and it’s only going to strengthen the group, with (senior advisor to pitching Brian Bannister) involved, as well.”
Butera, 40, was the Angels catching coordinator last season and a bullpen catcher in 2022. He played parts of 12 seasons with the Minnesota Twins (2010-13), Dodgers (2013-14), Angels (2015, ‘21), Kansas City Royals (2015-18) and Colorado Rockies (2018-20).
Grifol described him as “one of the up-and-coming minds in the game.”
“I’m looking forward for him working with the catchers and the game-planning and the game-management part of it that I thought we were really poor at last year,” Grifol said.
Bourgeois, 41, was the outfield and base running coordinator for the Dodgers organization from 2021-23. He played in 317 major-league games during parts of eight seasons with the White Sox (2008), Brewers (2009), Houston Astros (2010-11), Royals (2012), Rays (2013) and Cincinnati Reds (2014-15).
“The Dodgers have had a lot of success with development in a lot of different aspects in which he’ll be focusing on,” Getz said. “Just a talented coach who will really help in a lot of different ways.”
Getz said the major-league background of the new coaches was not essential.
“At the end of the day, if players (are able) to respond to coaches, they need to feel like the coach is in their corner and it’s about helping the player,” Getz said. “In this case, we have guys with playing background and the ability to build those relationships.”