As they recover from a volatile season, the White Sox bullpen is likely to require a veteran presence for what promises to be another transition year in 2015.
Matt Lindstrom wants to be that steadying force.
A free agent after 2014, the right-hander hopes to return to a bullpen that general manager Rick Hahn has defined as an area that needs improvement in the offseason. Lindstrom has nearly two seasons with the White Sox under his belt and would like a third to help oversee the transition.
He sees the progress the rest of the team has made this season and doesn’t think the White Sox are far from contention, something he wants to see through.
“I’d like to be a part of something special,” Lindstrom said. “We’ve definitely seen the offense pick up here and I think we’re seeing some guys in the starting rotation learning on the job. I’d like to be a part of it here in Chicago. It’d be fun to win here. We definitely have the talent.”
They need more, especially in the bullpen.
With Lindstrom, 34, out for almost three months and Nate Jones having missed the season, the White Sox bullpen has spent most of 2014 without its two best relievers.
The result is a 4.46 ERA, the team’s highest since the White Sox posted a 5.49 ERA in 2007.
Lindstrom made 32 high-leverage appearances in 2013, posted a 3.12 ERA and induced 15 double plays. But not only did they lose his talent when he suffered an ankle injury in May, they lost his calm demeanor. They have that in bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen but Lindstrom is easily the most experienced reliever the White Sox have.
“You’re always hoping you have someone in each area of your team that guys can draw from who has experience,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He has done a lot of different things in the bullpen.
“Matty has that.”
Lindstrom has maintained his collected manner even in the face of recent struggles. After he returned from the disabled list, Lindstrom gave up six runs, seven hits and walked a batter over two games last week.
But aside from voicing frustration, Lindstrom didn’t budge from his normal self because he has the experience to know how to handle the situation. He’d like another chance to pass that knowledge on to some of his younger teammates.
“You just gotta kinda walk in the next day like it didn’t happen and that’s tough to do even for myself because you put so much time and effort into your craft and you want it to go well all the time,” Lindstrom said. “But you’ve got to remember this is where the best play and you’re going to have your ups and downs.
“You have to have that flush-the-toilet mentality. I’ve had to use it a couple times the last couple of days. You just gotta kind of be the same guy every day. If you learn to do that your job becomes a little easier on how to deal with it and you just go about it the same way the next day.
“You have to trust your ability and be confident even when it’s going bad and that’s the toughest thing to do in this game. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
As difficult as this season has been on the White Sox, Lindstrom sees some of the same positives Hahn mentioned last week. Injuries have afforded Jacob Petricka, Zach Putnam and Daniel Webb the chance to gain valuable experience.
The White Sox have gained insight on what each young right-hander can do.
On his sixth team in eight seasons, Lindstrom likes the potential he sees and wants to help the White Sox realize it in 2015.
“I would like to be a part of it,” Lindstrom said. “I like it here in Chicago. Over the last five years, I’ve had to change teams every year. It’s tough to getting to know teammates, gelling together with everybody. I feel like I’ve found a pretty good spot and I’d like to win here.”