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The White Sox made their most decisive move in addressing the Tony La Russa DUI charge debacle, but that’s only because they had previously made no attempt at all. Here’s the statement they put out this morning:
“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.”
That’s the White Sox’s first official acknowledgment that a DUI charge is indeed serious. It just rings hollow, given they deployed Bob Nightengale to Chuck Garfien’s podcast, and the first thing he said was, “Well, it’s embarrassing, but it’s not serious.”
Despite the cloud hanging over the franchise, the White Sox were able to land a pitching coach, and one a lot closer to Rick Hahn’s vision than what happened with the managerial position. Dave Williams reported that the White Sox have hired Ethan Katz, the assistant pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants, to replace Don Cooper. Other top MLB reporters followed in confirming it.
If you’re familiar with Katz, it might be from the several offseason plans that featured him. He was a semi-popular figure in the Project because Katz is a prominent figure in the story of Lucas Giolito’s turnaround.
Prior to joining the Giants, Katz had been the pitching coach at Giolito’s high school, Harvard-Westlake, where he oversaw a staff that also included Jack Flaherty and Max Fried. Giolito praised him back in 2016 …
“I worked pretty hard in high school, but once Ethan started coaching, that took it to the next level for me,” Giolito said. “I wasn’t much of a strike thrower. I had issues with my command. Ethan took over as pitching coach, and we worked hard on it every day. It got to the point where I was a good amateur prospect and all that.”
“It was kind of weird,” Giolito said. “I didn’t go into the offseason thinking, ‘My arm action’s too long.’ I basically went to my pitching guru, Ethan Katz — he was my pitching coach in high school and now he’s the [assistant pitching coordinator] for the San Francisco Giants — and I obviously had a rough season last year, so I said, ‘I know you’ve suggested things in the past and I never really bought into it, but whatever you’ve got for me, I’m doing it.’”
Taking Katz’s advice, Giolito began a weighted ball program specifically focused on a few movements, and within two weeks of trying it out, his arm action shortened without any conscious thought.
Katz had worked his way from Harvard-Westlake, getting into pro ball by coaching in Seattle’s system, to joining the Giants as a pitching coordinator, then being promoted to assistant pitching coach for the 2020 season. Here’s a profile the Giants posted of Katz this past season.
I’d wondered about the White Sox’s ability to hire a top pitching coach, especially if they had an interest in attempting to pry one from the collegiate ranks. They were linked to Chris Fetter, who jumped from Michigan to Detroit, and they had reported interest in Arkansas’ Matt Hobbs. But it was hard to imagine a college coach leaving a secure job at a high-profile school for such a tenuous situation with the White Sox.
It’s a little easier for a pro pitching coach to justify an upward move, on the basis that there are only 30 main gigs, and pitching coach jobs tend to beget pitching coach jobs in some form.
Katz will open his White Sox career in his age-37 season, so it’s easy to think Hahn is hoping Katz can be a fixture independent of La Russa. Based on whatever happens with the legal process and the White Sox’s tolerance for public disgust, going independent of La Russa might be the only way to go. This is a welcome, encouraging development, especially under the circumstances.