Scott Downs is up for some rebuilding.
The veteran reliever said on a conference call on Tuesday he likes the direction the White Sox are headed and wants to contribute to their youth movement on the mound and as a mentor.
Downs, who last week officially signed a one-year deal worth $4 million that includes a club option for 2015, turns 38 in March and has 12 major league seasons of experience.
“The talks that I had about rebuilding, about going young, about needing some extra veteran leadership in the clubhouse and on the field -- it all appealed to me,” Downs said on a conference call. “I want to win and be a part of something special and I think we have that here.”
A one-time starting pitcher for the Cubs, who made him a third-round draft pick in 1997, Downs has primarily been a reliever since 2006. He has a 26-22 record and 26 saves with a 2.49 ERA in 514 appearances in the bullpen with 375 strikeouts in 466 innings.
While much of the focus on the team’s rebuild has surrounded the position players, the White Sox have a similar situation in the bullpen. Gone are the three most prominent pitchers from last season’s bullpen: closer Addison Reed was traded to Arizona last month and veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain were dealt last season.
Just like 2012, the White Sox head to spring training next month without a definite answer in the ninth inning. Setup man Nate Jones is the leading candidate for the closer’s role though veteran Matt Lindstrom and rookie Daniel Webb could have a chance as well.
The White Sox added Ronald Belisario and Downs to give the club a veteran presence in the bullpen but could have as many as four pitches with no more than two years of experience pitching. Downs, who could be a setup man, likes the makeup of the potential group and believes he can provide leadership.
“I feel like I get along with everybody,” Downs said. “I feel like I fit in all situations. I don’t get intimidated. We have some young guys in the ‘pen and my thing is for them not to get intimidated. Just to go out and have fun and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this year and I’m looking forward to it.”
Though he finished 2012 with the Atlanta Braves, Downs pitched for the Los Angeles Angels the previous 2 1/ 2 seasons and had been in Toronto since 2005 before that. He doesn’t have any crossover teammates but said he relied on the scouting report of Adam Dunn for what to expect with the White Sox.
“The older you get you want to go somewhere that’s comfortable and hearing him talk about how much he liked it there, that’s always good to hear,” Downs said. “You always want to go somewhere guys like to be and guys are comfortable.”