When looking at the Chicago White Sox’ depth chart for the 2014 season, one of the major areas of concern has to be the back end of the bullpen. This uncertainty is a result of the December 16 trade which sent Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for third baseman Matt Davidson. During the 2013 season, Reed posted a 3.79 ERA while closing out 40 games for the White Sox.
Of the seven pitchers currently listed as relievers for the 2014 White Sox, only Matt Lindstrom has had experience in the closer role at the Major League level. He saved 15 games in 2009 with the Marlins and had 23 saves in 2010 with the Astros. The other six pitchers on the roster have combined for just five saves.
As of January 19, 2014, the White Sox have yet to name a closer and don’t seem too concerned about who it will eventually be.
“The bullpen usually figures itself out. They will show you in terms of who needs to pitch in this inning or that inning. I’m not concerned about it,” said Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach.
Though the Sox have yet to name a closer, it is widely believed that Nate Jones is the favorite to fill the role. The right-hander, who turns 28 later this month, has a career 3.31 ERA and has struck out 154 in 149.2 innings. The other likely candidates include Lindstrom and Donnie Veal (50 appearances, 29.3 innings, and no saves with the 2013 White Sox).
Obviously, losing Reed, a pitcher who saved 40 games last year will be a challenge for the White Sox. However, I am confident that the Sox will adequately address this need, as they have in the past. In 2013, Jones averaged 1.14 strikeouts per inning, slightly higher than Reed’s 1.01 strikeouts per inning. Also, Jones has a lower career ERA at 3.31 compared to Reed’s 4.17. The Sox aren’t exactly downgrading at this position, they are just using a different player to fill the role.
Jones fits the profile as a traditional White Sox closer. During the past eight seasons, all three closers that the White Sox have used spent some time in the club’s farm system (Addison Reed, Sergio Santos, and Bobby Jenks). Historically, the White Sox don’t typically go out and acquire a big name to serve as their closer. Rather, the White Sox spend time developing pitching prospects in the minors so that their money can be used elsewhere; mainly for offensive power.
This formula of developing pitchers would not work if the Sox didn’t have a great pitching coach like Don Cooper. Cooper is considered one of the best pitching coaches in the league. According to a veteran National League scout, “Nobody seems to get more out of his pitchers than Cooper does. Young guys and old guys get to the White Sox, and they all seem to get better.” Cooper’s presence and experience is what makes me confident in the White Sox pitching staff going into the 2014 season. As long as we have Don Cooper, I am confident that the White Sox will continue to get the best out of their pitchers.
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