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Pedro Grifol taking season one game at a time

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This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Pedro Grifol follows a one-day-at-a-time approach as White Sox manager, and it has nothing to do with the actress Valerie Bertinelli.

Only those of you who watched sitcoms in the late ’70s and early ’80s, or METV, will understand that joke. But I tried to widen Grifol’s focus a little when I was one of three beat writers to sit down with him Tuesday at Yankee Stadium for a private pregame session.

My two-part question was as follows: On June 6, at somewhere around 4:45 p.m. ET, does he believe the White Sox can win the 2023 American League Central title? Or how about, will they win the title?

As for Grifol’s response …it leaned heavily toward the one-day-at-a-time vernacular.

“That’s the goal,” said Grifol, with a wry smile, of winning the division. “However, I don’t really think about that at all. I really do day to day.

“I look at the schedule, just to set up the pitching, and say we have these three or four teams coming up. My mind doesn’t work too far ahead. I don’t want to lose track of where we’re at.”

Grifol spoke to us for 18 minutes and was very introspective about his current job and how his other jobs at the Major League level and Minor League level shaped his first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. He’s as high-character of an individual as one could hope to meet, and great to talk with about life. He’s a little more steely when talking baseball before or after games in the formal interview sessions, and that combination reminds me a bit of Rick Renteria.

That’s high praise in my book. Grifol was asked Tuesday if he’s still enjoying the job, running a team that started miserably but has pushed its way back into contention with a 21-15 mark over the last 36. In a typical positive response, Grifol has enjoyed the growth.

“I’m enjoying the climb,” Grifol said. “Obviously, I did not enjoy at all the 10-game losing streak. I didn’t enjoy 7-21, whatever we started. Did not enjoy that.

“But I’m enjoying getting better and playing better. All the way around: the team, myself, the staff. All the way around. I’m enjoying that.”

Let’s go back to that division title idea, with the White Sox clearly being the division’s most talented, or most complete, crew on paper. Then again, that paper and that talent edge doesn’t mean much, as the 2022 season proved. Grifol does believe, even if he’s only focused on the upcoming Marlins series.

“Everybody goes into the season wanting to win the division, and do I still think we can win it? Of course. Why not?” Grifol said. “One more thing about that, the unknown is the new schedule. Before you [could] say, ‘We have 50 games left with the division and 18, 19 games with each team.’ There’s no sample on this new schedule, like how does this thing work. Everybody is playing everybody.

“So as far as who’s in, who’s out, we’re going to see some things a little different than we have in the past. How different? I don’t know. You can’t say these guys have a tough schedule or a tough month. Everybody is going to have that month. These guys have that easy month. Everybody is going to have that month. That’s another reason I don’t get too far ahead on this stuff.”

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