No matter how they say it, White Sox excited about progress of rebuilding effort

Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria can't bring himself to utter the word "rebuild."

"I call it adjustments to rosters," Renteria said Friday before the opening of SoxFest 2018 at the Hilton Chicago. "Not ... the other word."

Renteria's boss, general manager Rick Hahn, doesn't shy away from using any words to describe the direction that dominated the landscape of the Sox's season in 2017 and will continue to do so in '18. Hahn continued his mantra of practicing patience with a Sox team that flashed signs late last season of being a contender sooner rather than later.

"We have a great deal of excitement heading into this season, but we also know objectively where we're at in this thing," Hahn said. "We've made a lot of progress in the last year-plus (and) we feel we're much closer ... to being able to field a team that can contend for championships on an annual basis. But we also know there's a fair amount of work ahead of us."

That work will involve the players and coaches who during the first of the three-day festival were cheered by enthusiastic Sox fans who are all-in with the rebuild.

"The fan support has been stunning," Hahn said. "It has been overwhelming in terms of the amount of enthusiasm and energy they've shown. This weekend is sold out (and) virtually every fan that interacts with me directly ... has expressed their support. As an organization, we very much appreciate (that). I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we're saying it to ourselves. There's going to be a temptation."

That temptation will center around the highly touted Sox prospects Hahn & Co. have stockpiled in the last 12 or so months. Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech -- two of the popular players SoxFest attendees most clamored to get a look at Friday -- lead a young group that will write the next chapter in Sox history. At some point in 2018, Jimenez and Kopech, as well as perhaps Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease, are likely to follow '17 call-ups Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito to the majors.

Sox fans aren't the only ones excited by that prospect.

"Can I contain my excitement? No, I can't -- I don't want to contain my excitement," Renteria said. "I want everybody to see my excitement because it is real. Not everybody is going to make it, not everybody is going to be The Guy. But there is a lot here.

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"I can contain my patience knowing that if we do it the right way, at the end of the day we're going to have a chance for some successful seasons and have a lot of fun."

Any rebuild is a fluid situation, and the one in full swing on the South Side is no exception. A new phase beyond developing players at both the minor- and major-league levels will eventually come, even if no one involved has a firm timeline on when it will happen.

"You'll know it when you see it," Hahn said. "You'll know when you start seeing us be aggressive to add more veteran talent to round out our roster. Over the next couple of winters, there's been a lot discussed already about how robust those free agent classes may well be, and you may well see us be a little more active than we were this past offseason.

"As we sit here today though, you look at not just what you hear from us or what you're seeing with your eyes, but what's being reported by people outside the organization. We objectively have options at every position, guys who could, if they max out and hit their ceiling, provide us with championship- caliber players at every position on the field and on the pitching staff."

Maybe it will be at that point Renteria will be comfortable enough to use the word "rebuild."

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