Bobby Thigpen has his sights set high for the White Sox bullpen this season.
Thigpen, the teams new bullpen coach, said Thursday he believes the South Siders relief corps has a chance to rank at the top of the league.
With a mix of talented young pitchers and veterans, Thigpen doesnt see why the unit cant improve upon last season. The White Sox return Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Donnie Veal, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and, depending on his role, Hector Santiago. The team also agreed to sign veteran Matt Lindstrom last weekend with an announcement expected this weekend at Sox Fest.
How good can the group be? Best in baseball, I think, Thigpen said. We got some young guys. Weve got a couple older guys that I think helped them a lot last year, having Matt and Jesse there. Were going to look for them to give them that role and then hopefully I can do my part and help the young guys come along like they should.
Theres plenty to like with Jones, Veal and Reed.
Jones improved as the season progressed, accruing a 1.64 ERA and five wins over his final 32 appearances. Veal became a nightmare for opposing left-handed hitters, who went 3-for-32 against him with 14 strikeouts. And even though Reed struggled in non-save situations, he never relinquished his closer job and set a team rookie-record with 29 saves in the process.
Its a confidence builder, Thigpen said. They got to make the adjustments to stay here. And thats what theyll be looking at this year, to add to what they did last year, along with their stuff, maybe change a few things in order to. Everyone has scouting reports and now theyve seen them for a full year and now they have an idea of what they got. Now its up to them to make an adjustment to give them a different look and keep improving and have another good year.
Reed showed off some of the confidence gained on Thursday in between calls to season-ticket holders. With a season of experience, the right-hander, who converted 29 of 33 save attempts, said he can focus on his job rather than just making the 25-man roster.
40 or 45 saves, Reed said. Thats my goal this year. I mean, last year it was making the team. I still feel like I have to fight for that closers spot. By no means do I think I have that position on lock. Ill try to get that spot out of spring training and after that just try to get as many saves as possible.