PHOENIX — There’s still lots of work to complete but the health of the White Sox bullpen is on the upswing.
After a week of activity without any of their go-to-guys available, the White Sox suddenly have a bunch of talented arms ready to go. With Nate Jones and Daniel Webb returning to action, Ronald Belisario in camp and Matt Lindstrom on the mend, the White Sox may soon start answering some of their most pressing questions in the second half of camp.
Considering the time element — there are 18 days left in Arizona and Opening Day is March 31 — White Sox coaches are pleased with the recent turn of events.
“I like that everybody is here,” manager Robin Ventura said. “That makes me feel a lot better. Everybody is here and they are getting into games and we are getting a better idea of what guys can do.”
Saturday was a banner day for the White Sox, who have to define nearly every role in the bullpen, including determining a closer.
Now healthy after he was sidelined by a gluteal strain, Nate Jones, one of the team’s best options at closer, shook off three weeks of butt jokes and rust to deliver a scoreless inning despite shaky fastball command.
Earlier in the day, Belisario, who appears in line for a setup role, showed that even after a three-week delay because of visa issues, he’s not that far behind everyone else. Pitching coach Don Cooper saw enough from Belisario in a 10-minute bullpen session to know the right-hander had been working out in Venezuela and could appear in a game by Wednesday or Thursday.
“Things are coming to come together with our group and now we’ll get ‘em ready for the season,” Cooper said. “I’m excited to see everybody go out there to pitch to tell you the truth. We kind of know who our guys are, but just to have them here and untracked, that’s the big thing.”
Another possible closer, Webb pitched through rust and heartache — he left the team for a week after the death of a family member — to deliver a scoreless inning Sunday.
Even Lindstrom, who is being cautious after a setback with his strained left oblique, seems to be headed in the right direction. The right-hander, another potential closer, doesn’t think he’ll be back until later this week at the earliest. But he also believes his arm is in good shape after he threw eight bullpens in 16 days before he arrived at camp.
Based on how Jesse Crain made the team last season, pitching only once in March during an exhibition series at Milwaukee, Lindstrom is confident he’ll have time to prepare for the opener.
“If it were my first or second spring training, I would be a little bit nervous,” Lindstrom said. “I don’t need 12 games in Spring Training to get ready for the season…You all saw what kind of year Jesse had the first three months of the season and he didn’t have spring training. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but I think we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do.”
Jones has a thought or two about what’s ahead for the White Sox bullpen.
Ventura and Cooper still need to sort out who will handle what role.
But Jones thinks he and his fellow relievers are about to perform the way the front office believes they’re capable.
“Everything will start falling into place and you’ll see guys out there and just doing our jobs, throwing strikes and putting up zeroes,” Jones said.