Cooper on his ever-changing pitching staff

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Cooper on his ever-changing pitching staff

With Sergio Santos traded to the Blue Jays, you might be wondering who will be the White Sox closer in 2012.

Addison Reed? Matt Thornton? Jesse Crain? Other??

Hearing the comments made by pitching coach Don Cooper to Comcast SportsNet, its looking like were not going to know until the end of spring training.

May the suspense begin.

Its going to be wide open, Cooper said of the closer situation Tuesday on Chicago Baseball Hot Stove. Its too early. We dont know. Weve got to sit down and talk about it. In spring training, well see how it shapes up. Im a big believer in this: that theyll show you.

And not just for the closer role.

With Chris Sale moving to the rotation, Jason Frasor traded back to Toronto, and the possibility that the White Sox still might trade Thornton and the 11 million he is owed for the next two seasons, the bullpen is in line for one serious makeover.

If youre a Sox minor league pitcher ready to take the next step or a free agent reliever looking for a job, Glendale might be the best place to be come spring training.

Were going to have openings on the pitching staff. There might be three, possibly four openings for somebody to make our team, Cooper said. You know whats going to happen? Competition is going to happen at spring training. Were going to watch it, and theyre going to stand up and show us who needs to be on the team, who needs to get on the plane to leave and start the opening series in Texas, and its exciting.

But the bullpen is not the only big shake-up for Cooper. For the first time since he became pitching coach in 2002, he wont be able to rely on his 200-inning machine, Mark Buehrle. The two actually started working together after the Sox drafted Buehrle in 1998 when Cooper was the teams minor league pitching coordinator.

Will he feel a void? You bet.

I havent felt the loss right yet, Cooper said. I think Ill personally feel it in spring training and during the season. Its more of him just not being there. As a pitching coach, you have relationships with everybody, and this is my longest relationship with anybody. So when that guy is not there, theres going to be a void. I havent felt it yet, but Im sure I will during the season.

Especially if the rotation struggles.

Its our job to replace that and to find a person or persons that will fill that void, Cooper said. The starting rotation has to pick up those 200 innings, and hopefully quality innings. I talked to Buehrle and Im happy for him.

Losing Buehrle will be painful. If the Sox had also lost John Danks, the pain would have been excruciating.

Danks is going to be with us for the next handful of years," Cooper said. "Im excited about that for him. Were looking for him to be a leader, and how do you lead? By going out there and giving us a shot to win that game.

For the White Sox to contend in 2012I think you know the rest: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Jake Peavy need to have bounce-back years.

Peavy showed flashes of his old self last season, and now that hes a year-and-a-half removed from the experimental surgery in which he had a latissimus dorsi muscle reattached to his right shoulder, he could be ready to take that next stepif his body lets him.

He had an up-and-down season because he had an unbelievably new surgery, an injury that nobody else had had in baseball, Cooper said. I think everything last year kind of went the way we were expecting it to go: ups and downs because of what I just mentioned, a never-been-done surgery. But now hes past that surgery. Were looking for Jake Peavy to get to giving us a chance every single time out there to win that ballgame, and last year we saw glimpses of it. He should be given a pass on the past. But now, here we go.

With the White Sox entering the season with so many unknowns, all while trying to both retool and win at the same time, theyll likely go into 2012 as heavy underdogs.

What kind of attitude will it take to change that? Cooper has an idea.

My credo right now is, Were going to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do, and give them the best that we got.

Considering how much of that was missing from last years team that had a record 127 million payroll, thats not a bad place to start.

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