White Sox' Pedro Grifol era begins with strong first impression

White Sox' Grifol era begins with strong 1st impression originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After Pedro Grifol put on the White Sox jersey with his last name and No. 5 adorned on the back, he relayed his stamp of approval to general manager Rick Hahn.

"This feels good,” Grifol said to Hahn. “I like the colors."

If all goes well, he’ll be wearing them for a while.

The White Sox officially named Grifol their new manager on Thursday, introducing Tony La Russa’s successor in a near-hourlong press conference on the South Side.

“Today is a pretty exciting day around here,” Hahn said. “You may see me smiling a little bit more than you have over the past year and gushing a little bit more than I have in the past year.

“And that’s because it’s a little difficult for me to contain the excitement that many of us feel being able to present Pedro Grifol to you all as our new manager.”

Grifol was one of around 30 initial candidates for job, a group that was cut to eight when the Sox began first-round interviews.

RELATED: Hahn details White Sox' search process that led to Grifol

He’s a baseball lifer who played nine minor-league seasons before a post-playing career in which he’s held a bevy of positions. Grifol started as a scout, worked at the front office level as a farm director, and has coached in the minor and major leagues.

He spent the last 10 seasons with the Royals, serving as their bench coach from 2020-22, and spent the previous 13 seasons with the Mariners organization.

“I've taken the road less traveled to this position,” Grifol said.

Or, well-traveled. And with his extensive résumé, it wasn't a surprise to hear Hahn say Grifol “knocked our socks off” in his first interview. It was supposed to be 90 minutes but lasted 3 1/2 hours.

“Frankly, I had to check myself a couple of times to make sure I was going into subsequent interviews with a fully open mind,” Hahn said.

Grifol’s passion for the game was evident on Thursday, as was his enthusiasm for this opportunity with this team. He first started to think about managing in 1994, in the middle of his playing career, after he underwent shoulder surgery. A scout told him he needed to play a few more seasons first.

And as a coach in Kansas City, he had a unique perspective on the White Sox’ disappointing 2022 season, one marred by injuries and underperformance.

“There were a lot of injuries so very rarely did we play a full Chicago White Sox team,” Grifol said. “Them going 81-81 and at times playing with not the energy they’re capable of playing with and winning 81 games is, you almost look at them like, 'Damn, you guys really are talented. Because you had the injuries, the energy was off and on and you still won 81 games.'”

The White Sox had other issues. Their offense underperformed. They made too many fundamental mistakes on the bases and struggled defensively.

A new manager alone won't fix all that went wrong, but Grifol ultimately will be judged on wins and losses. The White Sox are counting on him being the fresh voice they need to get back on track in this contention window.

Thursday was a good first impression.

"We will be fundamentally sound, we will play with passion, pride for this uniform," Grifol said. "This means something. We will respect the game, our fans, and earn their trust. We will be prepared to control the strike zone on both sides of the ball.

"We will work hard and play winning baseball every night. We will definitely hold each other accountable. I truly see great things happening here. I'm really excited to be a part of it."

Said Hahn: “We sit here today and with the hiring of Pedro feel like we are taking a major step to putting ourselves back on track on the trajectory we all felt we were on over the previous seasons prior to last season’s disappointment.”

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