White Sox break productive camp, but will it make a difference in 2023?

“We’ve always got to find a way to get better,” first-year manager Pedro Grifol said.

SHARE White Sox break productive camp, but will it make a difference in 2023?
Michael Kopech works on fielding drills at Camelback Ranch. (AP)

White Sox righty Michael Kopech participates in pitchers fielding practice at spring training on Feb. 18. (AP)

AP Photos

MESA, Ariz. — The White Sox boarded a plane Tuesday for Houston, leaving the first spring training of Pedro Grifol’s managerial career in the past — and the 2022 season even further behind.

As Grifol likes to say, a season can’t be won in spring training, but it can be lost there. Attention to detail, emphasis on communication, getting drills right and accountability were the focus points for a team that played .500 ball last season.

And the Sox’ 81-81 record in 2022 felt and looked 10 games below .500. That will happen when expectations are high. Sox people — from the front office to the marketing department to the fans in the stands and on social media — are calling it the most disappointing season they can remember. That’s an accurate assessment, considering the 2022 team was supposed to be in the thick of a contention window after two consecutive postseason appearances.

With Grifol emphasizing work segments of five to seven days, the objective in camp was concentrated focus on immediate tasks.

‘‘I’ve loved Pedro’s approach,’’ right-hander Lucas Giolito said after his final spring-training tuneup Sunday. ‘‘First and foremost, having open communication with every player and putting us in our group — starting pitchers, relief pitchers, position players. Having different types of goals and expectations for each group, I feel like we’ve met all those for spring, and now we get to move forward into the season.’’

Grifol’s camp emphasized the little things, such as pitchers’ fielding practice, pitchers’ slide steps and intentions to control an opponent’s running game, hitting the cutoff man, secondary leadoffs and not missing signs. Seven top players were absent during the World Baseball Classic, so that wrinkle had to be managed, too.

General manager Rick Hahn lauded Grifol’s communication skills when he hired him, and players clearly know what is expected of them.

None of this is to say all of those things were absent under former manager Tony La Russa the last two seasons. And the Sox were not the only team to emphasize fundamentals, execution and communication in camp, of course. But whether such attention makes a noticeable difference will begin to be seen when the Sox open the season with a four-game series Thursday against the World Series champion Astros.

‘‘All in all, I think the intensity level was good, the work was good,’’ Grifol said before the Sox’ final Cactus League game Tuesday against the Cubs. ‘‘We’re still working on things. Maybe that’s just me and my mindset. We’ve always got to find a way to get better.

‘‘I don’t think you’ll ever see me or hear me say, ‘Yeah, we’re there,’ because there’s still mental mistakes being made. We’ve just got to continue to tighten things up and get better as we go.’’

Much was said early in camp about the Sox not pulling together last season. Motivated by their 2022 failure, players came to camp with an edgy aim to make amends, be accountable and stick together.

On Sunday morning, with most of the clubhouse cleared out, the starting rotation of Giolito, Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech and Mike Clevinger sat in a circle, talking.

‘‘I’ve really enjoyed [Grifol’s] approach as far as being very focused, creating that good culture, bringing everyone together, working for a common goal,’’ Giolito said.

‘‘He’s got the right mindset,’’ first baseman Andrew Vaughn, who hit his second home run of the spring Tuesday, said of Grifol. ‘‘He’s got us all pulling together; that’s the biggest thing. We’re all pulling from the same rope. We’re all ready to go.’’

Will all of it make a difference?

‘‘Just watch us play,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘Give us a chance. Watch us play and develop your opinions on this year, nothing in the past.’’

The Latest
Only 3% of ballots cast on Feb. 28 came from youth voters. So what’s the deal? “It’s obvious to me that young people in that city don’t feel empowered by their governance,” said Della Volpe, author of “Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America.”
The Bears closed on the 326-acre former Arlington International Racecourse property last month and will decide in the coming months whether to pursue building stadium — in addition to hotels, shops and restaurants — on the property.
The feds’ key witness, former ComEd Vice President Fidel Marquez, spent hours testifying Tuesday about how he and other ComEd executives fielded constant requests to find jobs for people he said were pushed for employment by Madigan, even when evaluations found their qualifications lacking.
He will have to address the growing notion that investing in long-neglected South and West side neighborhoods comes at the expense of downtown and the North Side.
A Northwestern University poll on the Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas contest for mayor finds Latino voters are still “up for grabs” while race and a generational divide are also key factors in the election.