CHICAGO (CBS) — A blown save or two is always expected on a team that doesn’t have a Hall of Fame closer to get the job done. In the case of the Chicago White Sox, finding a suitable replacement for two injured closers will be a tough road to travel. In reality, Chicago is down three closers since the end of the 2013 campaign.
Last year’s closer, Addison Reed, was traded to Arizona during the winter. His two primary set-up men, Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom, were the heirs apparent to Reed. Jones never got going from spring training on. He eventually had back surgery and will miss most of the season. Lindstrom assumed the role and had marginal success before incurring what appears to be a season-ending injury to his foot last week.
Veteran Ronald Belisario has now taken over the role on an interim basis. He blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Saturday. That game was lost in the 10th inning.
Manager Robin Ventura said for now the former Dodger set-up man will stay in the closer’s role.
“I have never seen a guy where it was just easy to get guys out,” said Ventura. “Even looking at a guy like (Eric) Gagne (who had 88 straight saves without failure) when he was out there, more often than not the tying run is usually on base or comes to the plate.”
Ventura has a number of younger candidates in the bullpen who he may turn to as potential closers. Daniel Webb, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are all fireball fastball pitchers who could develop into the next dominant guy in the Sox pen. The question is when they want to start the process.
“They have done that job in the minor leagues,” Ventrua said. “That doesn’t mean they are suited for the job here. Right now (Belisario) is the guy. If we have a save chance today, he is going back out.”
Handling a bullpen in which using four relievers a game is not uncommon can eat into a young manager’s psyche and stomach lining.
“The bullpen is one of the main challenges,” Ventura said. “The bullpen is always a tough thing because it is an obvious pass-fail. Using them and how often you do, giving guys a day off all goes into it. It is also a collective thing with how a total bullpen is doing. Even though the score may be the same as yesterday, you can’t always use the same guy in that situation as yesterday.”
Ventura summed up the qualifications for a successful run in the closer’s role.
“It is a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “But mostly you have to have good stuff, you have to be lucky and tough minded at the same time.”