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Function: White Sox reportedly nab new pitching coach

Dysfunction? The follow-up statement on La Russa

San Francisco Giants Photo Day
Ethan Katz, assistant pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants, poses for a portrait at Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training complex of the San Francisco Giants on Feb. 18, 2020 in Phoenix.
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

It’s a mixed bad this morning — but for the first time this month, mostly good news.

The White Sox, throwing anything against the wall in hopes of defraying attention from a rapidly-degenerating PR situation surrounding DUI-prone old/new skipper Tony La Russa, have apparently hired a new pitching coach — and he’s a good one.

Early on Thursday Dave Williams tweeted that Ethan Katz, assistant pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants, will take over for Don Cooper as pitching coach in Chicago.

Assistant pitching coach for a lousy Giants team doesn’t sound too sexy, until you trace Katz’s fast climb into the majors. He had been in the Seattle organization, but before that coached the Harvard-Westlake High rotation of Jack Flaherty, Max Fried ... and Lucas Giolito.

Yes, this is the same Ethan Katz who Giolito went to after the 2018 season to completely revamp his pitching form and approach — producing the perennial Cy Young candidate you see today. So whatever you might imagine White Sox players are thinking about the La Russa hire, you can be sure that Giolito (who regards Katz as his “pitching guru”) is plenty pleased on the pitching side.

The key element of Giolito’s turnaround, aside from complete surrender to Katz in an attempt to completely transform his results on the mound, was taking reps with a heavy ball, which had the effect of shortening his arm action. The change from 2018 to 2019-20 has been almost comically stark.

Katz is just 37 and has had a fairly stratospheric climb into the majors, so there’s promise written all over this hire. Over the weekend, our James Fox will take a deeper dive into what Katz brings to the White Sox.

Meanwhile, the White Sox issued a follow-up statement on La Russa to select media, including LaMond Pope of the Tribune, and it takes a little bit of blush off of the Katz rose:

“As Tony La Russa’s attorney said in his statement, Tony deserves all the assumptions and protections granted to everyone in a court of law, especially while this is a pending matter. Once his case reaches resolution in the courts, we will have more to say. The White Sox understand the seriousness of these charges.”

Given the speediness of court proceedings (including the understandable COVID-19 delays) and likely ability of top lawyers to delay and obfuscate, this matter — which the White Sox are punting comment on until resolved — could drag into 2021 and very likely, next season.

Yes, the White Sox might head to spring training not knowing whether their manager will need a leave of absence over the summer — for jail time.

I wonder if GM Rick Hahn has a similar “agreement” with La Russa as he did with deposed skipper Ricky Renteria, where if certain conditions are met, La Russa will be dismissed. We still don’t know what the nature of the “intimate” discussions between Hahn and Renteria that ventured into the area of when and how Renteria would be fired, but perhaps Hahn has been allowed to tell La Russa that if the “Hall-of-Famer baseball person” has to serve jail time, the White Sox will serve him termination papers.

As much as the White Sox are trying to put a pin in the ongoing outrage over the La Russa hire, the guess here is we’ll be addressing this issue in the days and weeks to come.