White Sox season preview: Relief pitchers


White Sox season preview: Relief pitchers

Every day this week leading up to Friday's Opening Day contest against Texas (1 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), we'll be previewing a different unit of the White Sox. Be sure to check out the looks at the White Sox infield, outfield and starting rotation if you haven't already. Today's topic: the bullpen.

It's the day before Opening Day. Do you know where your closer is?

Robin Ventura, his coaching staff and probably the team know who's going to take the ninth inning reigns. But the media, fans and Texas Rangers have no clue.

The safe bet is Matt Thornton will trot in from the bullpen to finish off the first save situation of the year for the White Sox. While his foray into closing didn't go so well last year thanks to a combination of suspect command and horrific defense from Juan Pierre, he's the safest pick Ventura could choose.

Reports of Thornton's demise last year were largely exaggerated, as from mid-May through the end of the season he was his usual dominant self: 2.40 ERA, 49 strikeouts, 15 walks, .563 opponent OPS. While Thornton is 35, he doesn't have a ton of innings on his arm and as long as his fastball velocity doesn't decline (it hasn't yet), he'll be fine.

If it's not Thornton, Hector Santiago seems to be the trendy pick thanks to an outstanding spring. The lone screwballer left in the majors, Santiago struck out 13 in 11 preseason innings -- but he also walked six, which could get him into trouble in high-leverage spots. Of course, he'll face plenty of those in a setup role, some of which will be more important than save situations.

But the emergence of Santiago this spring should work in Thornton's favor -- Will Ohman is better served as a lefty specialist, which would mean the Sox would have trouble getting through setup situations that feature a righty sandwiched by two lefties.

That's where Santiago comes in. If Thornton is the closer, Santiago would slide into the primary lefty setup role, leaving Ohman to be utilized mainly against lefties -- against whom he's pretty good.

Regardless of who begins the season as the closer, though, it's likely we'll see Addison Reed in the ninth inning at some point in 2012. While Reed's thrown all of 7 13 innings at the major-league level, he's posted gaudy strikeout rates everywhere from San Diego State to Chicago. He has the profile of a closer, and it's a matter of when, not if, he'll be finishing off games for the Sox.

Jesse Crain could get an opportunity to close later in the season, although he's more likely to stay in the setup role he's held his entire career. Crain has undergone a pretty interesting transformation in the last few years, going from a fastball-slider-curveball pitcher to ditching the curveball and throwing more sliders than fastballs.

That combination has worked out nicely, as two of Crain's three best seasons ERA-wise have come in the last two years. Opponents swung and missed at 13.2 percent of Crain's pitches -- easily a personal best -- and as a result, Crain posted the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2011.

Nate Jones earned a spot in the White Sox bullpen thanks to his upside, although the 26-year-old hasn't thrown a pitch above the Double-A level. He's a big strikeout guy, but he's also a big walk guy -- if Jones can harness his control, he could be an effective middle relief option, but for now, he'll likely be used primarily in low-leverage spots to ease him into big league competition.

Rounding out the bullpen is long reliever Zach Stewart who, outside of one magical start against the Twins, was pretty hittable last year with the White Sox. But he has decent stuff, and perhaps a move to the bullpen will lead him to throw harder and have more success. That's a minor thing to follow, but it could determine Stewart's future with the White Sox.

All in all, the Sox bullpen doesn't appear to be a weakness heading into 2012. The combination of Thornton, Santiago, Crain, Reed and Ohman should work to hold plenty of leads -- no matter who's closing.

White Sox: Chris Getz's new player development role is to carry out 'vision of the scouts'

White Sox: Chris Getz's new player development role is to carry out 'vision of the scouts'

He may be limited on experience, but Chris Getz already has a strong idea about player development.

Getz -- who on Friday was named the White Sox director of player development -- worked the past two seasons as an assistant to baseball operations in player development for the Kansas City Royals. A fourth-round pick of the White Sox in the 2005 amateur draft, Getz replaces Nick Capra, who earlier this month was named the team’s third-base coach. A quick learner whom a baseball source said the Royals hoped to retain, Getz described his new position as being “very task oriented.”

“(The job) is carrying out the vision of the scouts,” Getz said. “The players identified by the scouts and then they are brought in and it’s a commitment by both the player and staff members to create an environment for that player to reach their ceiling.

“It’s a daily process.”

Getz, a University of Michigan product, played for the White Sox in 2008 and 2009 before he was traded to the Royals in a package for Mark Teahen in 2010. Previously drafted by the White Sox in 2002, he described the organization as “something that always will be in my DNA.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Getz stayed in Kansas City through 2013 and began to consider a front-office career as his playing career wound down. His final season in the majors was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore hired Getz as an assistant to baseball operations in January 2015 and he quickly developed a reputation as both highly intelligent and likeable, according to a club source.

“He is extremely well-regarded throughout the game, and we believe he is going to have a positive impact on the quality of play from rookie ball through Chicago,” GM Rick Hahn said.

Getz had as many as four assistant GMs ahead of him with the Royals, who couldn’t offer the same kind of position as the White Sox did. Getz spent the past week meeting with other members of the White Sox player development staff and soon will head to the team’s Dominican Republic academy. After that he’ll head to the Arizona Fall League as he becomes familiar with the department. Though he’s still relatively new, Getz knows what’s expected of his position.

“It’s focused on what’s in front of you,” Getz said. “Player development people are trying to get the player better every single day.”

“With that being said, the staff members need to be creative in their thinking. They need to be innovative at times. They need to know when to press the gas or pump the brakes. They need to be versatile in all these different areas.”

White Sox name Chris Getz Director of Player Development

White Sox name Chris Getz Director of Player Development

The White Sox announced on Friday they have named former MLB infielder Chris Getz as Director of Player Development.

Getz replaces Nick Capra, who after five seasons in his position was named the White Sox third base coach on Oct. 14.

The 33-year-old Getz has spent the last two years with the Kansas City Royals as a baseball operations assistant/player development in which he assisted in minor-league operations and player personnel decisions.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

“I'm excited about the opportunity to help teach and develop young talent in the organization where my professional career began,” Getz said in a press release. “I was drafted twice, worked through the minor leagues, and reached the major leagues with the White Sox. Through this journey, I was able to gain an understanding of the individuals within this organization, who I respect greatly.  The director of player development is an important role, and the health of the minor-league system is vital for major-league success.  I look forward to putting my all into making the White Sox a strong and winning organization.”
White Sox Senior VP/general manager Rick Hahn added: “We are pleased to add Chris’ intellect, background and energy to our front office. He is extremely well-regarded throughout the game, and we believe he is going to have a positive impact on the quality of play from rookie ball through Chicago.”

Getz, originally a fourth-round selection by the White Sox in the 2005 MLB Draft out of Michigan, played in seven MLB seasons with the White Sox (2008-09), Royals (2010-13) and Blue Jays (2014).

Getz had a career slash line of .250/.309/.307 with three home runs, 111 RBI and 89 stolen bases.