While Hector Santiago has thrown just five innings in three games this spring, he's looked impressive enough to be considered as a fairly safe bet to land a spot on the White Sox Opening Day roster. His previous body of work certainly helps support that.
So as things stand, there are two openings left in the Sox bullpen. One of those will probably go to either Zach Stewart or Dylan Axelrod -- Larry says Axelrod has the upper hand, which I agree with for now. But they're neck-and-neck with comparable innings counts, strikeouts and walks, and neither has a profile within the organization that sets him apart from the other.
It's presumed the Sox will take either Axelrod or Stewart to use as a long reliever, although Santiago could be used in a long relief role. That'd only happen, though, if Axelrod and Stewart struggled while two other relievers impressed to the point where the Sox couldn't leave them off the roster.
But since that scenario hasn't come to fruition yet, the Sox are left with one open spot left. Right now, the player with the inside-most track is probably Brian Bruney, who hasn't allowed a walk or run in five innings while striking out seven. He was able to limit runs for most of his 19 23 innings with the Sox last year, but his success was tenuous and came crashing down toward the end of his major-league run.
Eric Stults has had a good spring as well, striking out five with no walks and no runs allowed in five innings. He's more a long reliever, though, and doesn't have the starter potential of Axelrod and Stewart, so he's lumped in with the last group. If it comes down to Bruney vs. Stults, Bruney probably would be the guy.
Bruney and Stults don't provide much upside, unlike Nate Jones or Jhan Marinez. But Jones doesn't have great upside, either, as a 26-year-old who hasn't pitched above Double-A. He's had some success this spring, but he's untested and doesn't have the high ceiling of most guys who skip Triple-A on their way to the majors. The Sox, though, have given Jones a pretty extended look -- only he and Will Ohman have appeared in five games this spring, the highest total on the team.
Marinez has considerably more upside but has seen considerably less success this spring, allowing two home runs with more walks than strikeouts in four 13 innings pitched. He may find his way into the bullpen at some point this year, but he needs to put in more work in the minors before he could be a possibility.
Guys like Anthony Carter, Leyson Septimo, Donnie Veal, Deunte Heath and Jose Quintana are extreme longshots at this point in camp.
If Opening Day were tomorrow, those three open bullpen spots would probably go to Santiago, Axelrod and Bruney. But just over two and a half weeks of games separate us from April 6's opener in Texas, and plenty can change between now and then.