Rick Renteria's strategy for getting his team off to a fast start in baseball's 60-game sprint to the postseason?
Act like the season's already two-thirds of the way over - and that his White Sox are the team to beat in the AL Central.
"We've got a 60-game schedule. I'm going to assume we've already played 102 games and we're in first place and we're trying to hold on to that slot," the White Sox skipper said Monday. "It is important for a club to get off to a good start because obviously the schedule is waning, it's short. So I'm going to approach it that way and put us in a position where we are creative, try to have a good eye on what everybody's doing and see if we can kind of maintain ourselves through the whole schedule."
Indeed, when the White Sox regular-season schedule begins later this month, they will be in first place. As part of a five-team tie, but in first place nonetheless.
If they want to be there when the regular season comes to a close just two months later, they'll need to topple the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, the two teams who fought it out for the AL Central crown last season. And with every game carrying twice or thrice as much weight as in a normal season, getting off to a good start is paramount. There's no time to dig out of a hole.
The White Sox appear capable of competing alongside their division foes, thanks to their young core breaking out in a big way last season and Rick Hahn's front office going to work to add impact veterans with winning experience over the winter. In fact, should everything go right for the White Sox, they could find themselves the most balanced of the three teams.
The Twins have a thunderous lineup that added perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson in the offseason, but will their pitching staff, past ace José Berríos at the top of the rotation, be able to match the impact of the bats? The Indians, meanwhile, might boast baseball's best starting rotation, but after Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez, two MVP types on the left side of the infield, how will their lineup perform?
The White Sox have their own questions that need answering - specifically in the starting rotation, though the months-long layoff has allowed them to build some depth in that department - but should a revamped lineup and a talented collection of young arms meet the high expectations the team has set for itself, things could get very interesting as this brief season approaches October.
It's not at all outlandish to suggest that how Renteria will approach the season, as if the White Sox are in first place, is how it could end.
Rick Renteria approaching 2020 season like White Sox already in first place originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago