Updating the White Sox closer competition

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Updating the White Sox closer competition

Heading into the spring, it seemed like the general consensus around the White Sox was that Matt Thornton would begin 2012 as the team's closer with Addison Reed ultimately sliding in the role at some point during the season.

Through three weeks of spring training action, Thornton hasn't done anything to warrant a move away from the ninth inning. In 4 23 innings, he's allowed one run with three strikeouts and no walks. Yes, it's spring, but he hasn't given the White Sox any reason to not name him the closer on Opening Day.

Jesse Crain's oblique injury has eliminated him from any consideration for the gig, although he was a longshot given he's the only dependable right-handed setup man on the roster.

Robin Ventura has said he'd rather ease Addison Reed into high-pressure situations, so throwing him into the ninth-inning role doesn't appear likely to begin the season.

But here's the interesting wrinkle: Will Ohman and Hector Santiago, reportedly, have joined the fray.

Ohman is a longshot given his career leftyrighty splits -- even with the changeup he's worked on this year, he doesn't have a reliable track record to get righties out in addition to lefties.

But Santiago has a good fastball and a screwball, both of which may play well against righties. He's been impressive this spring, striking out nine with four walks and one run allowed -- a solo home run -- in eight innings pitched. He earned the save Sunday against San Francisco, and while that probably doesn't mean much, it's at least worth noting in light of the recent closer developments.

The question for the White Sox boils down to whether or not Thornton is more valuable in the ninth inning as opposed to the seventh or eighth. In a perfect world, Thornton would be used based on the pressure of the situation -- if there's a high-pressure spot in the eighth, he'd enter the game then to get the more important outs.

Things don't work that way, though, and there probably is something to be said for a defined bullpen role. If the White Sox view whoever opens the 2012 season as the closer as a bridge to Reed, though, perhaps giving Santiago a shot isn't the worst idea ever. If he struggles, it'd be easy to swap him out for Reed. If he succeeds, it'd give Reed some time to acclimate to high-leverage spots in the majors.

Ventura's decision is hardly a foregone conclusion. With less than two weeks left in spring training, it's one that'll probably come down to the wire.

White Sox Road Ahead: Facing Chris Sale and the Red Sox

White Sox Road Ahead: Facing Chris Sale and the Red Sox

It'll be tough for Chris Sale to be humble when he makes his return to Chicago and faces his old teammates on Tuesday, but he'll do his best.

The former White Sox ace will face off against his old team as a member of the Red Sox (coverage begins at 6:30 on CSN with White Sox Pregame Live) and Dan Hayes and Siera Santos discussed what the atmosphere will be like on this week's Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers. Sale has dominated in his first season in Boston, going 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA.

Sale met with the Chicago media on Monday morning, and Hayes said the biggest takeaway from that presser was just how much Sale appreciated his time in Chicago.

"I think the fact that he realizes how important this was, how much he grew up with the White Sox," Hayes said in the video above. "He talked about that at length. Obviously last year was a little bit of a rouigh year, there were quite a few incidents, he said there were some blips on the radar, but mostly (he) had good times here than (he) had bad times and he said it's what has made him who he is. and he realizes that he apprecaites what he was able to accomplish here. misses the fans buit he's also moved on and he's doing well with the white sox."

See what else Siera and Dan had to say in the video above.

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

The majority of the talk surrounding Tuesday night's pitching matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field will be focused on the guy pitching against the White Sox.

Chris Sale returned to the South Side for the first time since being traded to the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, and he'll take the mound against his former teammates Tuesday. But the White Sox, who traded away one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be sending another All-Star hurler to the mound to oppose Sale.

Jose Quintana gets the ball for the White Sox, and while the attention will be squarely on Sale — and the emotions he does or does not show and the reaction he receives from the fans — Quintana will have his own emotional roller coaster going on, pitching against a guy who served as a mentor of sorts for the first five seasons of his career.

"Throwing on the same day will be a different feeling for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling watching him go against me after the last four years when he was my teammate. We talked last night. He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town. I can’t wait to see you guys.’ So I’m excited to play against him."

Sale had a few years on Quintana in major league service, but the duo looked like they would be a near-untouchable 1-2 combo at the front of the White Sox pitching rotation for years to come.

They both represented the White Sox at the All-Star Game last season and both finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

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Sale was shipped to the Red Sox to start the White Sox rebuilding effort, breaking up that duo leading the staff. But as is often the case, it's not the performances and the statistics that Quintana misses the most about Sale but rather the qualities he brought as a teammate.

"I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball," Quintana said. "We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus.

"I miss him. He was one of my best teammates ever that I played with. I understand it was part of the game. It’s a business and that happens. ... I miss his energy. We have a lot of guys here with energy too, but I miss the energy he had every time we talked in the dugout, watching the game."

Sale is having one of the best campaigns of any pitcher in baseball through the season's first two months. And while Quintana's start has been shaky at times, he's still the White Sox ace. It's that standing, though, that has had his name the subject of plenty of trade rumors during the offseason, spring training and since Opening Day. There is an expectation, warranted or not, that he will soon join Sale in departing the White Sox for a big prospect haul.

Until then, though, Quintana is taking over for Sale as the team's No. 1. The two old mates will go head to head Tuesday night in a monumental matchup, and Quintana is already projecting that focus he learned from Sale.

"I have just one game, and I have my focus on throwing the ball well for my team, to get a 'W.' That’s my focus every time, to do my job," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling because I’m pitching against him, but I don’t want to pay attention to the other team. I just want to do my job."