Matt Lindstrom makes case for keeping closer job
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter April 16, 2014 11:28PM
Updated: April 17, 2014 12:33AM
Matt Lindstrom’s first impression as the White Sox’ closer hasn’t been a good one, and he knows it.
He hopes that manager Robin Ventura extends his leash and gives him more time to prove he’s up to handling the role.
It appears as though Ventura will.
Not to make excuses, but Lindstrom, a setup man for most of his career with save seasons of 15 and 23 with the Florida Marlins and Houston Astros, has battled to get his 34-year-old body right since spring training. He was sidelined by a left oblique strain but has had minor lower-body stiffness and soreness since that cleared up. Nothing bad enough to keep him down but enough to keep him from being at his best.
Lindstrom is just looking forward to being at his best as he tries to solidify his role as the ninth-inning man. He knows his velocity has been down a tick and none of his stuff has been as good as it can be.
“Today was the first day since I can remember that I came to the park feeling like nothing hurt,’’ Lindstrom said before the Sox lost to the Red Sox 6-4 in 14 innings Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. “More than anything, I just want to pitch well, regardless of when that is.’’
On a night when Sox pitchers allowed 15 walks, including eight by the bullpen, Lindstrom was the only one who didn’t give one up.
Who knows, had Ventura allowed Lindstrom to start the ninth with a clean inning, the result might have been different. Maikel Cleto opened the inning and walked Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts. Lindstrom allowed only an infield single to Jonny Gomes but Grady Sizemore’s sacrifice fly scored Pedroia with the tying run. He got out of the inning and pitched a scoreless 10th.
Lindstrom is more of a ground-ball pitcher than a strikeout artist — his 26 double plays induced since 2011 are tied for third-most in the majors — but he has a good enough slider and a new cutter to possess put-away stuff. It just hadn’t been on display in his first three save chances, when hitters went 6-for-14 against him with runners on base.
Ventura said before the game that Lindstrom is still “in there to close right now,’’ suggesting that can and will change if Lindstrom’s results don’t get better.
Ventura said before the game that he is comfortable using Daniel Webb in more high-leverage situations, and there is a growing belief he could mature into the closer’s role. He had no idea that Webb would throw 60 pitches over three innings of relief.
“I don’t mind putting them in certain situations that even though they’re young, they feel like they’re battle-tested,” Ventura said.
After Webb, Ventura was forced to use utility infielder Leury Garcia to pitch. None of the Sox’ starters were apparently available to fill in on an emergency basis. It was the first major-league appearance for Garcia.
Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez tied Frank Thomas’ club record 15-game hitting streak to start a by hitting his fourth home run of the season against Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. John Danks (six innings, one run, four walks) had a chance for a win after Ramirez’s homer gave the Sox a 3-1 lead.