“When that spot opened up for us in the pitching coach role, I knew Ethan would be a great fit,” Giolito said.
Lucas Giolito gave his props to Don Cooper, whose firing after 18 seasons as the White Sox pitching coach stunned the Sox ace.
“I’ll be honest, it was definitely a bit of a hit,” Giolito said Tuesday. “I wasn’t expecting it. I really, really loved Coop.”
But 37-year-old Ethan Katz couldn’t be a better replacement as far as Giolito is concerned. Giolito had Katz for a coach in high school and continued to use him as his “pitching guy” thereafter.
It was Katz who was instrumental in overhauling Giolito from one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball to one of the best after one offseason, and he will be good for the rest of the Sox staff, Giolito said Tuesday after the Sox made the hiring official along with the rest of new manager Tony La Russa’s coaching staff. Hired after serving one season as assistant pitching coach with the Giants, Katz is molded in a new-age model of the coach who incorporates analytics, detail and technology into pitching.
But he’s more than that, Giolito said.
“Ethan’s the type of guy that can put it together for each guy for an individual process of development to help them reach where they need to go as far as their personal career,” Giolito said.
Which is why when Cooper was fired, Giolito reached out to the Sox front office to cast his vote for Katz.
“I think it’s awesome,” Giolito said. “Ethan deserves this. He’s been working his [butt] off ever since I remember beginning to work with him as a 15-year-old kid. And he’s progressed. He’s done his time in the minor leagues. A lot of different roles in different organizations. When that spot opened up for us in the pitching coach role, I knew Ethan would be a great fit.”
Katz has already been communicating with Sox pitchers, watching video and discussing a plan for spring training with La Russa. For young but still unproven talents Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez, Katz has been in touch “a lot.”
“We’ve got some stuff brewing,” he said.
There’s also Garrett Crochet, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert, to name five other young arms who look like long-term keepers. Katz likes what he sees so far.
“A lot of it is going to have to do with the work we get done this offseason,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of work, and they’ve given me no reasons why I don’t think they will take these steps forward.”
Giolito also expressed support for La Russa, saying he has had conversations with the Sox’ controversial managerial hire and is “a big fan” of his coaching philosophy.
While La Russa and Katz are still getting acquainted over the phone – the first conversation was mostly La Russa getting to know Katz — Katz, like Giolito, cited the 76-year-old La Russa’s credentials.
“I’m really impressed with him,” Katz said. “Obviously he’s a Hall of Fame manager, and getting a chance to work with him is going to be something special. Not a lot of people can say they worked with a Hall of Fame manager. It’s been really good.
“I’m thrilled. This is a dream come true to get an opportunity to be a big league pitching coach.”
“Just trying to get them to maximize their strengths,” he said. “Getting to know them and hopefully kind of maximize their talents. It was definitely very impressive when I was going through the interview process and going through all the pitchers. It’s a very nice system.”