By Bruce Levine-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Finding a new role in the White Sox bullpen won’t be of major concern for last season’s closer, Jake Petricka, after the team signed veteran David Robertson to a four-year, $44-million deal this offseason to handle ninth-inning duties.READ MORE: 15-Year-Old Among 2 Shot In West Englewood
Like most first-time closers, the 26-year-old Petricka experienced the ups and downs that can have a lasting effect on the less-than-strong-minded pitchers. Learning to forget the bad and concentrate on the good takes some time in the big leagues, and Petricka believes it will help him moving forward.
“The confidence is there for me,” Petricka said. “I learned through some tough times how to get it done or shake a bad one off. I come into this season knowing whatever they have in mind for me, I am prepared for. We have a lot of veteran people coming in and that gives us all even more confidence.”
Petricka will most likely get the first shot at the right-handed setup role, alternating with lefty Zach Duke behind Robertson. After posting a 2.96 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with 14 saves in 2014, Petricka can also provide a security blanket for the closer’s role if Robertson needs a day off to recharge.
“I see these additions as a great thing,” Petricka said. “Did we have a good year last year? Some ways yes, others no. The difference is these guys have had good careers, not just a season or two. When you can add that to our young group, it can only make for a better opportunity for bullpen success. These appear to be great people to learn from, and I expect to do that and contribute my share, regardless of the role.”
The learning curve can be tough on young relievers walking the wire without a net for the first time. Petricka looks back at some of his failed outings as career building blocks.READ MORE: Man's Body Pulled From Lake Michigan In Evanston, Hours After Crews Rescuing 3 Other People Find His Belongings On Beach
“You learn you are on your own out there and you have to respond to that early,” he said. “What I realized here last season is you can do everything right and the person you are competing against can make you fail. You learn the name of the game is moving on with little or no baggage from you last attempts. If you don t learn these lessons early, you will have a very tough career.”
Petricka has no thoughts about regaining the closer’s role anytime soon. That said, he won’t back away from the challenge when Robertson is rested.
“I don’t think we ever go after each other’s jobs,” he said. “I will be preparing to be ready when I am called. If I am told to go in seventh or ninth inning, it will not matter to me. The best way to support each other is get the job done. That is about all it is about.”
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper gets the tip of the chapeau from the young pitcher for having his back last season.
“He was there for me and the others all the time,” Petricka said. “I had a little bad spell last summer. The first thing Coop did was approach me and say, ‘Don ‘t even think about thinking about it.’ He helped me clear any negatives out at once. He related that I don’t need to change anything because of a few bad results. Coming from an accomplished guy like him, it took the pressure off.”
The strikeout-to-walk ratio will be of watched closely for Petricka after it was 1.67 last season.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Last Weekend Of Summer May Be Among Nicest
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.