Matt Lindstrom feels he’s better equipped to handle closing games this time around.
A day after he learned he would have the first crack at becoming the White Sox next closer, Lindstrom pitched around a one-out double Monday to preserve a 5-3 Opening Day victory over the Minnesota Twins.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura cited experience and stuff as the reasons Lindstrom edged out Nate Jones and Daniel Webb for the chance to take over the ninth.
Lindstrom said he has improved since he previously was a closer as he has learned to use his two-seam fastball more often. Last season, Lindstrom used to his two-seamer to rack up 15 double plays, the second-most among American League relievers.
“It has been a long time coming,” Lindstrom said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better as each year the last four years coming out of the bullpen in whatever inning. I feel like I’m suited for the role, but I also feel like we have other guys who could do it.”
Recent history suggests one of the other candidates might assume the role later this season. Many assumed Jones was the favorite in what he called “a friendly competition” between himself, Lindstrom and Webb, whom the team likes because of his makeup and his slider. But Lindstrom has history with the role and now has 46 career saves, though Monday’s was his first since April 14, 2011, when he was with Colorado.
“In the past he has closed,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Right now he’s throwing a good slider. It’s giving a guy a full inning. There are certain guys that like to have that. I think Matty is one who likes a full inning to work with.”
The last time the White Sox were in a closer search they began the 2012 season with Hector Santiago in the role before he handed the baton off to Addison Reed. Reed saved 69 of 81 games the past two seasons and held the role tightly before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If Lindstrom doesn’t solidify the role Ventura has several other strong options, general manager Rick Hahn said. The team also added righty Ronald Belisario in the offseason and likes what it has seen from waiver claim Maikel Cleto.
“Hopefully (Lindstrom) seizes the job, and there’s no looking back,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we tried to enter this year by providing Robin with enough late-inning options, guys with good enough stuff, with the ability to pitch high-leverage situations, whether they come up in the seventh, eighth or ninth and let him and (pitching coach Don Cooper) figure out what the best time is to deploy each of them. Nothing is set in stone in terms of roles. This is just how we’re starting the day.”
Ventura also likes having flexibility with Jones, who acted as a setup man last season and pitched in important spots down the stretch in 2012. Jones could one day take over the role, Ventura said.
“He could be,” Ventura said. “We have a few guys who could do that. But I think Nate where he is at right now, he’s comfortable coming into any situation and getting the tough out in the seventh and eighth, and he’s used to that.”