White Sox are blessed with options if Addison Reed struggles at closer
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org February 24, 2013 11:23PM
Sox closer Addison Reed works the ninth inning for a save of the Chicago White Sox 2-1 win over the New York Yankees Wednesday August 22, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 24, 2013 11:43PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s always good to have a backup plan, especially when it comes to the ninth inning.
White Sox closer Addison Reed converted 29 of 33 save opportunities as a closer during his rookie season last year. That .880 percentage — which ranked ninth in the American League — will keep him in the closing business. The 29 saves, which ranked seventh, were the most ever by a Sox rookie.
His 4.75 ERA might not fly, however, and while nobody is freaking out too much about that number — knowing his ERA in non-save situations (6.20) fattened it up — manager Robin Ventura has some comfort knowing he has options in a reasonably deep bullpen if Reed goes through a sophomore slump.
“Yeah, absolutely,’’ said 33-year-old Matt Lindstrom, a free-agent acquisition who has 45 major-league saves in his career. “That’s the great thing about how our bullpen projects. You have Addison with his experience from last year, and everybody down there — with the exception of Nate Jones — has some closing experience. That gives us that much more of an opportunity to be used in any situation.’’
Matt Thornton has 23 career saves and Jesse Crain has four. Left-hander Hector Santiago, who is stretching out for spot-starting and longer relief work, saved four after being named the Opening Day closer last season. Lefty Donnie Veal saved his opportunity last season. Hard-throwing right-hander Jones (2.39 ERA) played a key role for a pen that posted a 3.75 ERA with nine rookies contributing.
“So we’re going to mix and match down there,’’ Lindstrom said Sunday. “We have the arms to get it done. It’s exciting for us.’’
Lindstrom saved five for the Florida Marlins in 2008, 15 more in ’09 and 23 for the Houston Astros in ’10. So he has the mentality to handle it.
“It’s definitely a different feel with your teammates depending on you to get those last three outs for the win,’’ he said.
“It’s cool, but you have to keep that even keel. It’s a long season and it’s not like football on a Sunday where you have five days to think about the win. You have to get back the next day and forget about it whether it went good or bad. You need that flush-the-toilet mentality.’’
Reed, who closed in college and the minors and has always wanted to do nothing else but close, has that mind-set.
“I know blown saves are going to happen,’’ he said.
This spring, Reed is working on locating his fastball, and he’s trying a new changeup with an off-center four-seam fastball grip.
“I messed around with it in the offseason, trying to get more comfortable with the grip,’’ Reed said. “It seems to be working well. I feel more comfortable with it every time I throw it.’’
Having close to a full season of closing puts him well ahead of where he was last spring.
“I know what it takes to stay healthy and stay competitive for a full season,’’ Reed said. “It was huge learning all the hitters and their tendencies.’’
Bringing that ERA down is a goal.
“Definitely,’’ he said. “The ERA was a little high but it’s going to happen. I had a few rough spots, something to learn from.’’
Lindstrom likes what he’s seen from Reed so far.
“He’s got great ability,’’ Lindstrom said. “And his mechanics, throwing across his body is very deceptive. He got the job done last year.’’
And if he happens not to this year, there’s always Plan B. Or C.
“Robin has great stuff down there,’’ Lindstrom said.