Rick Renteria's return to Cubs complex sparks talk of a beer with Joe Maddon

White Sox manager Rick Renteria returned to Sloan Park on Monday for his first matchup against the team he was supposed to take to the World Series.There were no hugs with his former Cubs players before the 4-4 tie because Renteria is not big on pregame fraternization....

Rick Renteria's return to Cubs complex sparks talk of a beer with Joe Maddon

White Sox manager Rick Renteria returned to Sloan Park on Monday for his first matchup against the team he was supposed to take to the World Series.

There were no hugs with his former Cubs players before the 4-4 tie because Renteria is not big on pregame fraternization. He said he tells his players: "Make sure you say hello, and if you really want to get in depth, take 'em out to dinner or lunch."

The Cubs managed to get to the World Series and win it without Renteria, in case you haven't heard. So we'll never know if he would have taken them to that stratosphere with the boatload of young talent Joe Maddon inherited, not to mention add-ons Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist and Aroldis Chapman.

Asked if it felt "weird" being back at Sloan Park and managing against the team that abruptly fired him, Renteria flashed that Ricky smile.

"Not at all, not at all," he replied. "It's just baseball. I'm just on the other side now."

As the story goes, Renteria didn't return Maddon's call after Maddon took his job in October 2014. There really was nothing to say.

But Maddon finally was able to speak to him at spring training last year, when Renteria became the Sox bench coach under Robin Ventura, and again last week when the two managers briefly crossed paths at a Cactus League media function.

"Listen, he's awesome," Maddon said. "There's nothing (between them). He's fine. We're fine. He's a wonderful man. I'd love to have a beer with him sometime. We could hook up in Chicago sometime with the schedules being proper.

"But there's nothing (bad). Anything you're reading right now is a little contrived."

Maddon later said he wasn't referring to any particular story that suggested hard feelings remained.

"My conversations with him have been great," he said. "He's really a good fellow and really a bright fellow too ... engaging, gregarious. I'd love to know him better."

Informed before Monday's game that Maddon wanted to have a cold one with him, Renteria said it was a fine idea.

"I'm sure we'll have a beer sometime," he said. "Absolutely."

As someone who has a passing interest in beer, I've volunteered to host a beer summit at an establishment to be named in Arizona or Chicago. We can also invite Cubs President Theo Epstein, the guy who fired Renteria and immediately admitted it was "unfair."

Joe Maddon on White Sox manager Rick Renteria

Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses White Sox manager Rick Renteria as well as Cubs pitchers Brett Anderson and Caleb Smith on Feb. 27, 2017. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses White Sox manager Rick Renteria as well as Cubs pitchers Brett Anderson and Caleb Smith on Feb. 27, 2017. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)

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"It was a really painful week," Epstein said after hiring Maddon. "You wrestle with those things. As a person, I didn't want to do it. I don't want to ever be unfair to someone else.

"But as an executive and someone charged with winning a World Series here, I had no choice but to do it. It was clearly the right move for the Cubs."

Clearly it was, as the Cubs won the World Series under Maddon. Epstein said Monday he was glad Renteria landed on his feet.

"I texted with him, haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said. "Jed (Hoyer) is closer with Ricky. They had a pre-existing relationship, and I'm closer to Dale (Sveum) because of a pre-existing relationship. I certainly was thrilled for him when he got the job."

In his first season replacing Ventura on the South Side, Renteria is in a similar position as he was with the 2014 Cubs, rebuilding with a focus on the future instead of the present.

"Seems like he's got a lot of talented young players to work with over there," Epstein said. "His energy, his personality would be real assets to help develop those kids. Keep them positive, keep them moving forward."

It's early, but the Sox are happy with the way Renteria has run camp and believe it will lead to a more united team once the season begins.

"It's been a good camp so far," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "Rick is more about shaking things up a little bit and having some fun with the players here in the meetings. Robin is a great coach, a great manager. I can see the qualities Rick shows in a manager, too, and I think he's going to be good one."

How does he shake things up?

"Bringing guys up in front (in the morning meetings)," Frazier said. "Robin didn't really do that as much. He was more like, 'Let's get ready, let's get going,' and then prepare.'

"Our meetings are a little longer here because we're going to have a little fun in them, busting the rookies' chops a little bit. It's good. Makes for good camaraderie."

The Cubs and Sox will meet again at Camelback Ranch on March 17, which also happens to be St. Patrick's Day.

Beer summit, anyone?

psullivan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

Caption White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Rick Renteria on moving on from the Cubs

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses moving on from the Cubs on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses moving on from the Cubs on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Yoan Moncada on fitting in with the White Sox

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada discusses how he's fitting in with his new team and how he plans to improve his defense on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada discusses how he's fitting in with his new team and how he plans to improve his defense on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Miguel Gonzalez, Jose Quintana on their 2017 Cactus League debuts

White Sox pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Jose Quintana react after their 2017 Cactus League debuts on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, after an exhibition against the Rockies. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Jose Quintana react after their 2017 Cactus League debuts on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, after an exhibition against the Rockies. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie on sitting out early spring games

White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie on sitting out early spring games. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune) 

White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie on sitting out early spring games. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune) 

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