GLENDALE, Ariz. --- The White Sox are carrying out their plan to be nonchalant about who will assume the closer’s role.
It appears the team intends to stick to the plan same as they did at the start of the 2012 season when Hector Santiago began as closer and eventually handed the baton to Addison Reed.
With four days left until the season opener, the White Sox have yet to name Reed’s successor. The team’s closer may not be identified until the first time the White Sox head into the ninth inning with a lead. And as recent history shows, even then the team’s first choice might not be its final one.
“That’s still a work in progress,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We don’t have one guy you know is the guy.”
General manager Rick Hahn isn’t in favor of a big announcement -- “I don’t view it that way,” he said. To the team’s credit, over the winter they identified several relievers as potential options -- Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb -- but said it might take time before someone emerges.
In 2012 Santiago started as the closer and Reed eventually took over in May and didn’t let go. He only relinquished his position when the White Sox traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Davidson in December.
“I think we have numerous late-inning options who when the right situation arises and the phone rings, they'll come in and get the three outs based on how Robin and (pitching coach Don Cooper) want to play it. If that evolves into a situation where one guy is usually the guy with the lead in the ninth, great. Guys fall into roles and sometimes that makes it easier for guys sitting down there.”
Jones seems to be the favorite in what he has described as a “friendly competition.” The right-hander, who can touch 100 mph with his fastball, has pitched well this spring after he missed the first part of camp with a gluteal strain. Jones isn’t ashamed of the effort he has put forth. He has a 2.70 ERA and didn’t issue a walk in six of seven appearances.
So even though he’s unsure what lies ahead, Jones is comfortable with the team’s decision.
“I have no clue,” Jones said. “Everybody has done pretty well so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. No matter what happens I can always hold my head up high because I feel like I’ve done the best I could here in spring.”
Lindstrom has appeared in three games after he missed most of spring with a left oblique strain. Webb, who left the team early in camp after the death of his mother, has a 3.00 ERA in six games. But with the addition of Javy Guerra on Wednesday it’s unclear what the team does with Webb.
Waiver claim Maikel Cleto (0.93 ERA) has also been outstanding and Ronald Belisario started strong. While the closer isn’t defined, Hahn thinks the talent level in the bullpen is more than sufficient. The bullpen’s collective ability should give Ventura and Cooper plenty of options for the ninth.
“We purposely try to add guys who have the stuff to pitch late in the games in key situations and also ideally have the mentality to handle, to get the most important outs,” Hahn said. “How they ultimately get deployed, that's up to Robin and Coop. But I'm not too focused on any specific announcements of anyone.”