Cooper inks extension, manages last two games
White Sox pitching coach will sit in seat vacated by Guillen
CHICAGO -- A contract extension for White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper became official on Tuesday afternoon with the announcement of a new four-year deal that preceded a two-game stint as interim manager in place of Ozzie Guillen.
Cooper is finishing his ninth full season and 10th overall as Chicago's pitching coach, having begun the task on July 22, 2002. He has worked under managers Jerry Manuel and Guillen, and soon will be practicing his craft for a third.
With Guillen released from his contract after Monday's 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays and bench coach Joey Cora apparently heading to the Marlins with Guillen, Cooper will run the show over the final two days. While Cooper is ecstatic to continue being in charge of the White Sox pitchers, there's a part of the 55-year-old native New Yorker that believes he could handle the bump up to the next level as the man in charge of a whole team.
"I've said this before: it's something I think I could do," Cooper told MLB.com on Tuesday afternoon. "Obviously, other than me managing winter ball, there's not a lot on my resume, but I believe I can do it.
"Being a pitching coach has always been my passion. But managing does intrigue me. You kind of daydream a bit."
There has been no talk between Cooper and general manager Ken Williams and/or chairman Jerry Reinsdorf concerning the managerial opening. Cooper believes handling the job is about more than Xs and Os or knowing when to bunt, when to steal or when to put on a hit-and-run. It's about handling individuals.
"You are creating a direction, or a feel," said Cooper. "I think it's about leading, and that's something I'm qualified to do. I'm curious, but I think they have something in mind."
Interest in the managerial opening created by Guillen's departure is nothing more than that on Cooper's part. He's not campaigning but simply expressing his confidence -- the sort of strength he has exhibited in leading the pitchers on the South Side over the past decade.
His enthusiasm in relation to the White Sox commitment is tempered by the departure of Guillen and much of the rest of the coaching staff that has been together for the better part of eight years.
"I couldn't be happier that my relationship with the White Sox, which has been so unbelievably fortunate for me starting 26 years ago, continues," Cooper said. "Don't get me wrong, this comes in the midst of some real sadness.
"Eight years together, that's a pretty significant chunk of a person's life, let alone career. I'm appreciative of the opportunity I had to work with [Guillen] for eight years in the clubhouse, eight years in the dugout, eight years on the planes and eight years in the hotels.
"But when something ends, something also begins. It's a new beginning for everyone. Personally, I will remember all the good stuff we went through. I'd like to think as time goes by, everyone will think about how lucky we all were and how much fun we did have."
First-base coach Harold Baines also had his contract extended, as announced on Tuesday, with Williams happy to have both return.
"Well, the pitching has been as consistent over the last decade from the best teams in baseball and that's a testament to our scouting department, to our player development department, to Don Cooper, directly in his direction," said Williams, who also has assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger as interim bench coach for the final two games. "It's something that's well deserved and I'm happy, thrilled to know that he's going to be on board here for the next four years.
"Harold, same thing. Solid, professional and will take a greater role in the next coaching staff that's put together."
During the past offseason, when the White Sox denied the Yankees a chance to talk to Cooper about their pitching coach vacancy, Cooper had to briefly wonder about his future as the last year of his previous contract approached. Cooper doesn't want to talk about anything from the past, focusing instead on staying part of a family he has known for three decades.
Over that time, Cooper has helped turn pitchers such as Jose Contreras, Esteban Loaiza, Matt Thornton and John Danks -- to name just a few -- into viable forces. His focus won't change with the new deal.
"My job is about taking care of pitching, where the manager doesn't have to worry about pitching. He can focus on anything else he wants," Cooper said. "That's what I shoot for, making it a solid entity.
"White Sox pitching is the only place I know. We've done an incredible job for the last 10 years, and I want to keep it going. You ask if I'm happy to be back? Well, I never left and I feel awfully fortunate."