BOSTON — Asked Thursday what factored into the previous night’s decision when he removed Chris Sale, White Sox manager Robin Ventura cited last month’s loss at Anaheim.
Coincidentally, Ventura was criticized for the decision he made in that one, too.
A month after some suggested Ventura left Sale in too long in a one-run loss to the Los Angeles Angels in which the White Sox led by five runs, the third-year manager received similar feedback for not leaving his two-time All-Star in long enough. Ahead by four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday night, Ventura turned to his bullpen with a man on third and two outs. But Jacob Petricka and Javy Guerra couldn’t hold the lead as they surrendered two runs each and the White Sox lost 5-4 to the Boston Red Sox.
Sale, who allowed a run, four hits and hit a batter, threw strikes on 80 of 107 pitches.
“It was similar to the game we had with Anaheim,” Ventura said. “He gets up over 100. But if you’re going to give him (Dustin) Pedroia, you’re going to give him (David Ortiz) and all of a sudden he starts getting extended to a point I wasn’t comfortable. We kind of figured right around 110 would be his number. But once you give him (Pedroia), if he doesn’t get him … Also it was the fourth time around. The fourth time around hasn’t really been a good thing for him.”
Ventura expects criticism whenever games go the way they did Wednesday, when a seemingly easy victory vanishes into thin air.
But he also knows that, reliable or not, he has to figure out what he has in a very inexperienced bullpen. There are similarities to Ventura’s first season as manager when the White Sox — aside from Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain — leaned heavily upon then-rookies Nate Jones, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed to get big outs.
Whereas Reed grabbed the closer’s role in May 2012 and ran with it and Jones developed into a setup man, this time Ventura’s young group hasn’t had as much success.
The White Sox — who this season have already used 12 relievers not named Leury Garcia — have blown 12 of 31 save opportunities.
“We can’t just add people to put out there,” Ventura said. “So they’re going to get experience and that’s part of it. (Petricka) has pitched well the last few games and it didn’t happen. These are the guys that are going to be in there. Sometimes it gets done and sometimes it doesn’t but they will be getting experience.
“You’re just going to have to find out how to work it.
“But these are the guys we have and this is who we’re pitching.”
After a rough first two weeks of the season, the White Sox bullpen began to put it together. Already without Jones, who had the most “late and close” appearances in the American League last season per MLB.com, a rearranged bullpen began to have success once the roles were redefined.
But the group suffered another big loss when closer Matt Lindstrom went down with an ankle injury on May 19. Again the deck had to be reshuffled and the White Sox made setup man Ronald Belisario their de-facto closer.
Belisario struggled in the role, but so have his counterparts. Petricka and Zach Putnam, two of the team’s best relievers, have both blown save tries since Saturday.
Ventura said the uncertainty doesn’t necessarily put him in a difficult position — he’s more concerned with finding the optimal spots for his young guys to succeed.
But as he has found out, that doesn’t mean anything.
“You’re trying to get them in their strengths,” Ventura said. “Maybe who they’re facing, part of the lineup, things like that they’ve been doing well at. It doesn’t guarantee anything. Not every guy out there has a 0.00 ERA, so you’re just trying to put them in the best spot you can put them in. After that they’ve just got to play the game.”