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White Sox' coaching staff will benefit from upgrade
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Columnist

Joey Cora, left, and Ozzie Guillen


Mary Beth Nolan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/25/2007 12:14 AM

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There's plenty of work to do, but the White Sox are off to a good start as they begin the difficult process of going from World Series champions in 2005 to also-rans in '07.

Don't expect any major player moves for a few more weeks. And before the Sox bring in some much-needed younger legs, look for them to officially cut ties with left fielder Scott Podsednik, shortstop Juan Uribe and center fielder Darin Erstad, unless Erstad agrees to a reserve role.

It's going to be a very busy winter for White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, but at least the coaching staff is in good shape.

On Tuesday, the Sox announced Jeff Cox is replacing Razor Shines as third-base coach, while Juan Nieves takes over for Art Kusyner as bullpen coach.

Both Cox and Nieves are well-qualified, and the particular addition of Cox is a big one.

While going out of his way on Tuesday to not blame Shines, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was quite clear on why the change was made.

Not only is Joey Cora the Sox' capable bench coach, he runs much of spring training.

But for as much energy and organizational skills as he brings to camp, Cora was running around in circles last spring.

He needs help with some of the small stuff that can grow into big trouble if it's not handled early.

Stuff like hit-and-run drills, advancing a base on pitched thrown in the dirt, hitting the ball the other way.

During his playing days, Cora excelled at doing all of those little things. It's the reason why he was a very good major-league second baseman for 11 seasons, including a four-year stay with the White Sox.

Cora can help the Sox re-learn the basics this spring, but Cox is also an experienced hand when it comes to playing small ball, and he'll share the load. Cox has also coached with Guillen before, and the two are a good match.

Prior to last season, Shines had never coached before. He was a minor-league manager for seven years and a hitting coach for two. Shines just never seemed to fit in.

Buddy system: The White Sox added coaches Jeff Cox and Juan Nieves, but don't forget about the recent hiring of Buddy Bell as director of minor-league instruction.

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thinks Bell is going to fill a huge void.

"I think it was a brilliant idea to bring in a man like that,'' Guillen said.

The White Sox' farm system was horrible this season, and only one of their six minor-league teams finished with a winning record.

On top of that, Guillen was baffled by the fact that so many of the youngsters called up from the minors were lacking in even basic baseball skills.

Look for Bell to turn that around quickly.

After spending the last two seasons managing the Kansas City Royals, Bell is up to date on dealing with and developing young players. And his no-nonsense style is exactly what the Sox need in their system.

Second chance? According to reports out of Philadelphia, Tadahito Iguchi rejected an offer to stay with the Phillies and switch to third base.

Iguchi was traded from the White Sox to Philadelphia in late July after all-star second baseman Chase Utley went down with a broken hand.

Now a free agent, Iguchi is looking to return to second base. The Sox seem to be satisfied with Danny Richar, but the youngster often looked overmatched while batting .230 with 6 home runs, 15 RBI and a .289 on-base percentage during a 56-game audition after Iguchi was moved.

Before packing up and heading for Philadelphia, Iguchi said he would be open to returning to the White Sox as a free agent. He played very well for the Phillies, batting .304 (.361 on-base percentage) in 45 games.

If his price is right, Iguchi is a major upgrade over Richar.