By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) — The 2014 season begins its descent into the mystic as the White Sox look toward better days and a more competent bullpen mix in 2015. It has been a struggle as the back end of the team’s games have fallen apart over and over again.
Part of the problem has been injury, and another portion is a lack of depth created by trades. The White Sox lost Nate Jones, the heir apparent to former closer Addison Reed, due to injuries. Jones had lower back issues in spring training and later came up with a bad elbow that had to be repaired.
Matt Lindstrom was the next veteran to take the plunge as the closer. After converting about 60 percent of his save opportunities, he was lost for three months with a foot injury.
Reed and left-hander Hector Santiago’s departures left a gaping hole that is yet to be filled. The bullpen has an even worse ERA in August (9.70) than the rest of the season (4.49 ERA). Roles are yet to be established for next season.
“We have made no secret about the fact the bullpen performance has not been satisfactory,” White Sox general manger Rick Hahn said. “It is an area of need for us, whether it comes from internal options or outside. I am not going to critique individual performances until we go into the off season.”
Hahn did admit that the team’s focus was for a two- or three-year rebuild while trying to stay competitive at the same time. The young group of Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka are considered parts of the bullpen that the team will run out next season. All three are between ages 24-26 and under contract control for the next four seasons.
Learning under fire at the big league level can intimidate the most hardened individual performer.
“The more we have a chance to go out there the more comfortable we get,” Webb said. “I am sure there are a lot of guys who have played at this level forever who still get nervous and butterflies when they prepare to go out there. It has calmed down for me, and I think the other guys as we continue to pitch here. I am still nervous when I go out there, but I have more control of it. It is not controlling me.”
Petricka has been the closer the last four weeks. He has been fairly successful in the role, going 9-for-13 in save situations with a 2.49 ERA.
“I have learned that bad games are going to happen,” Petricka said. “It just depends on how quickly you can rebound. We as a younger unit have learned how not to feel sorry for yourself and move on in a positive way to the next game. I have learned to come in with a good attitude every day and having fun with the guys.”
Hahn and his front office will evaluate the young guys the rest of the season before delving into the trade and free agent market over the offseason.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.