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White Sox Feel Good About Bullpen

Matt Thornton

Matt Thornton (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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Will Ohman and Matt Thornton feel their bullpen is one of the best in the league. With that said, the closer spot isn’t set just yet. Thornton is fighting for that spot and so far looks like the first choice for it.

Chicago White Sox reliever Will Ohman has a unique definition of what a bullpen is.

“Bullpen … usually comprised of six to seven players who are failed starters. They usually sit beyond the left or right field fence, not good enough to sit in the dugout. They call us in during extreme situations with no chance for glory.”

With that in mind, Ohman thinks the White Sox bullpen for 2011 is looking pretty good.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who are really bad at starting, so they’re really good at bullpen-ing,” he joked.

This is what people can expect from Ohman, who started his career with the Cubs. He and Jesse Crain are the two additions to a revamped bullpen that lost Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz and closer Bobby Jenks in the offseason.

Ohman appeared in a combined 68 games for Florida and Baltimore in 2010, striking out over a batter per inning. Crain, who spent the first seven years of his career with the division-rival Twins, made 71 appearances with a 3.04 ERA last year.

He doesn’t anticipate any problems making the switch to the White Sox, with the fans in particular.

“Obviously, it goes better, smoother, if you start off the right way,” he said. “But you cheer for your team, no matter where they come from. I’m part of this team. I’m not part of the Twins.”

Crain and Ohman join Matt Thornton and Tony Pena as the veterans beyond the outfield walls at U.S. Cellular Field, teaming up with young flamethrowers Chris Sale and Sergio Santos to form a committee that hopes to shorten games considerably for a starting rotation which already has a lot of pressure on it with Jake Peavy’s status up in the air.

Thornton is the frontrunner to close games this season, though manager Ozzie Guillen has not made his decision yet. Thornton filled in for Jenks from time to time last season, recording eight saves. He posted a 2.67 ERA in 61 appearances and had a career-best 12 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The trio of Thornton, Sale and Ohman, all southpaws who dial it up to the high-90s, will give the White Sox flexibility when troublesome left-handed hitters come up in late innings.

“There’s always enough work for everyone. We have a lot of really tough lefties in our division,” Thornton said, likely referring to the Twins’ duo of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

“You’re going to be fighting for innings sometimes, but others you’re going to be begging for a day off.”

Guillen has been vague about the closer role throughout spring training, mentioning having to close each inning individually and using his best pitchers when they’re needed most.

Thornton isn’t a fan of the idea of a rotation bullpen, but doesn’t expect the closer role will be a merry-go-round.

“We’ve talked and everyone agrees that having one ninth-inning guy is the way we should go,” he said. “I think you need to name a closer until you decide to go with someone else. When you look around baseball, bullpens just work better that way.”

Regardless of who gets Guillen’s blessing to handle the ninth inning, the White Sox feel they have one of the best bullpens in the game.

“Having that kind of group out there is a huge improvement,” Thornton said. “There’s some experience you lose out on, but you get some new guys who have a major fire and desire to be after it.”

Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.