Williams explains bullpen setup

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Williams explains bullpen setup

A scenario: bases loaded, two out, Sox up one in the seventh with Prince Fielder coming to the plate. If Matt Thorton was handed the closer role out of spring training, he probably couldn't be used in this spot -- even if it was the most important in the game.

And that's why Thornton, along with Jesse Crain, were never seriously entertained to take over the ninth inning in 2012.

"We were all on the same page initially with wanting Crain and Thornton to be available for the eighth inning, maybe the seventh inning sometimes because I think we all know in a game, that ninth inning doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have the toughest hitters up," Kenny Williams explained prior to Friday's home opener. "The situation to win the game might be in the seventh or the eighth. So to have those guys available and interchangeable for that -- it fit everything together."

That's smart thinking -- too many times do we see teams fail to use their best reliever in the biggest spot of a game. Thornton and Crain are both fantastic relievers, and the ability to use them for high-leverage, non-save situations should help the White Sox hold more leads as the season goes on.

It doesn't hurt that Hector Santiago has looked impressive since moving to a short relief role, either. The lefty had an impressive spring and has already saved two games, sporting a mid-90's fastball with a rare screwball and changeup combination.

"First of all, you see 95 miles per hour, aggressiveness to spot it to both sides of the plate. And then he can turn it over with a change up and the screwball you can't really practice, and if you only see it on occasion, it can really screw you up," a laudatory Williams said. "I think we were all privately thinking that, and then when we came together for a meeting and the subject was brought up, no one was caught off guard or surprised."

Well, no one with the team. Most prognosticators figured Thornton would take over the ninth inning, with Addison Reed sliding into that role at some point this season. Reed very well could end up finishing games at some point, although it appears Santiago will have to pitch himself out of that role.

When Williams dealt Sergio Santos to Toronto, he spoke of the relief depth the Sox possessed. At that time, though, the Sox probably didn't have as clear an idea as to what Santiago could offer -- in fact, there was talk about him sticking as a solid back-end starter.

But his emergence has keyed what looks to be a deep, successful White Sox bullpen for 2012.

Chris Sale: Trade from White Sox 'bittersweet,' ready to move on with Red Sox

Chris Sale: Trade from White Sox 'bittersweet,' ready to move on with Red Sox

There’s no question he’s excited about the chance to pitch for a perennial playoff team in front of Fenway Park crowds deep into October.

But Chris Sale described the trade that sent him from the White Sox to the Boston Red Sox as bittersweet on Wednesday morning. On his way out of town, Sale, who was traded Tuesday for four minor leaguers, including two elite prospects, credited the White Sox for their support and belief in him from the outset of his career. But while he wishes he could have won a title on the South Side, Sale also said he’s ready to move on.

“It’s exciting for all the reasons I already said,” Sale said. “It’s tough. You build a relationship with these guys and they are like family. Everybody over there is being in your family. You are around these guys probably even more during the year than you are around your family. It’s tough. But knowing what lies ahead makes it a little bit easier for that transition.

“It didn’t work out. I really wish it did. I have nothing but really good things to take from that and I appreciate my time with the White Sox. But I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

After several years of hearing trade speculation, the five-time All-Star said he started to sense the possibility was real a few weeks ago after a conversation with his agent. The chatter began to increase with the start of the Winter Meetings this week and Sale said he was inundated with texts from friends and family in anticipation of where he could be headed. When he learned it was the Red Sox, Sale said was ecstatic to learn he’d be playing for one of the “greatest baseball franchises ever.”

“It’s kind of like being monkey in the middle, you’re just glad when you finally get the ball,” Sale said. “It’s hectic. There’s a lot of speculation. There’s story after story and obviously getting flood with text messages from family and friends. Just to have the whole process out the way and to get back to normalcy will be nice.”

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

Many of those messages came from former White Sox teammates. Sale said he and his wife, who is soon due with their second child, spent much of Tuesday looking at old pictures and nostalgia from his White Sox tenure. Though he’s disappointed by the lack of team success with the White Sox, Sale said the team’s support was a critical element to his success.

The White Sox drafted Sale with the 13th overall pick in 2010 and he reached the majors later that season. Though he spent the first two seasons in the bullpen, the team’s plan all along was to make Sale a starting pitcher, something others weren’t certain he could handle. Sale has been an All-Star and also finished in the top six in the Cy Young Award vote in each of the five seasons since he became a starter.

“It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of great moments,” Sale said. “I had a very good conversation with Rick (Hahn) yesterday.

“I was in a situation in 2010, how many teams would have done what they did? It’s hard to say now, but probably not very many. They drafted me in the first round when people had questions. They brought me up to the big leagues really fast and people probably had questions. They threw in the rotation and people clearly had questions.

“They were really, they had my back a lot and they gave me opportunities that not a lot of other people would have given me. I’m very thankful for that.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Chris Sale trade

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Chris Sale trade

On the latest episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien and Dan Hayes break down the White Sox trade of Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox.

Plus, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides some insight on what exactly the White Sox got in return for their former ace.

And Rick Hahn talks about just how difficult it was to pull the trigger and trade elite, homegrown talent.

Listen to the latest episode below: