By Adam Hoge-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) – The White Sox pushed up cut day and rookie manager Robin Ventura set his first Opening Day roster Saturday morning.
The biggest battle was for the last two bullpen spots, which Nate Jones and Zach Stewart won.
“They’ve had great springs,” Ventura said. “They’ve earned it. It’s not just something that you’re just throwing out there. They’ve come in and to see where Nate’s come and where he’s at now, it’s great.”
Jones is a hard-throwing right-hander who has electric stuff, but suffers with control issues. Friday night he started his outing by throwing seven straight balls before settling down and getting out of the inning unscathed.
“It’s been a long road, but it’s well worth it for sure,” Jones said with a giant smile on his face Saturday.
Ventura said Stewart will start the season as the first long-relief option, but Jones will be relied on to pitch multiple innings as well.
Jones credits the development of his changeup as the key to his big spring as well as the cutter-slider Class-A pitching coach J.R. Perdew introduced to him. Jones went out of his way to thank minor league pitching coaches Perdew, Larry Owens and Bobby Thigpen.
Meanwhile, as expected, Eduardo Escobar won the job as the last position player on the team.
“From seeing him last year to seeing what he’s done this year, he’s been great as far as maturing, just getting stronger, doing a lot of different things,” Ventura said. “He plays lot of different positions, so for me, there’s a lot of versatility with him and Lillibridge.”
Ventura has said Lillibridge will remain his first option off the bench in the infield and some worry about whether or not Escobar will get enough at-bats at the big league level.
“He’s going to get some time to do some stuff,” Ventura said. “I think part of what’s on our roster, we’re going to have some flexibility with him moving around and doing different things.”
With Jones and Escobar joining relief pitchers Addison Reed and Hector Santiago on the 25-man roster, Ventura will have four rookies break camp with the White Sox.
“My first year we had quite a few rookies and it worked out OK,” the manager said. “I know people get concerned about it, but I trust these people. I’ve gotten to know them over the course of the month and they’re the best guys for the job and that’s it.”
Morel MRI Negative
Third baseman Brent Morel left Friday’s game with back stiffness, but he says it was just a precautionary move. It’s an issue he has battle before.
“I’d say more this year, but it hasn’t been that much,” Morel said about the pain. “That was really the first time where it was like I had to come out. Obviously if it was the regular season, I would have stayed in there.”
Morel said the MRI was negative and he was actually a late addition to Saturday’s lineup. He originally wasn’t scheduled to play.