A bit of experience might make for better White Sox bullpen
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com April 2, 2013 9:06PM
Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox
The facts: 1:10 p.m.,
Ch. 9, 670-AM.
The pitchers: Ervin Santana (9-13, 5.16 ERA in 2012) vs. Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.37).
Updated: April 2, 2013 9:24PM
The White Sox used 10 rookie pitchers last season, including one as the closer.
On July 13 in Kansas City, they sent eight rookie pitchers to the mound — and won. On a team that played meaningful games from start to finish, that kind of reliance on rookies was a lot to ask.
A year later, the Sox
expect the fruits of those
experiences to pay off. Addi-
son Reed, who saved 29 games as a rookie, knows he’s better for jumping into a role normally reserved for experienced arms.
‘‘Just getting thrown out there in the fire, getting a chance to throw every day, was huge,’’ Reed said. ‘‘Just because it was our first year, they didn’t back off on pitches or limited innings or tough situations. That was the most beneficial thing.’’
Reed, setup man Nate Jones and multipurpose left-hander Hector Santiago all began their second seasons Monday. All were thrown into big spots as rookies. All know what it’s about now.
‘‘We learned the ins and outs of a full season, what it takes to stay healthy and be prepared every day,’’ Reed said.
Going through the high of earning his first save against the Tigers to the low of giving up a walk-off home run to the Red Sox’ Cody Ross groomed Reed for a pressure-packed save opportunity on Opening Day on Monday against the Royals. Reed got three outs in the ninth to preserve a 1-0 victory.
He remembers Ross’ blast over the Green Monster at Fenway Park as though it happened last week.
‘‘A fastball that was supposed to be away,’’ Reed said Monday. ‘‘It could have been set on a tee, belt-high.
‘‘Being in Fenway, the
experience was awesome. The walk-off part of it obviously wasn’t awesome, but I’ll always remember.’’
He also will remember to forget. That is key for closers, who sometimes will blow saves, only to be asked to try again 24 hours later.
‘‘I’m glad that happened,’’ Reed said. ‘‘It was the first walk-off home run I’ve ever given up. To do it in Fenway, if you can learn to let it go and not think about it, you can do it anywhere.’’
Veteran reliever Jesse Crain watched Reed, Jones and Santiago deal with the highs, lows and in-betweens of relief pitching last season. Crain likes how the Sox’ bullpen stacks up because of its talent and the mix of young guys and veterans such as himself, Matt Thornton and Matt Lindstrom.
Crain said the young guys ‘‘don’t really act like younger guys.’’ Probably because they’ve been there now.
‘‘They gained confidence,’’ Crain said. ‘‘Experience, being there and doing it. They’ve faced everybody last year they’re going to face. Coming into it this year, nothing will be new. There will be a few butterflies, sure, but knowing you’ve done something before gives you comfort. That’s the biggest thing you gain the second year.’’
Expecting the young
relievers to be better because of the experience they gained as rookies is why manager Robin Ventura said he expects a more stable, better bullpen this season.
‘‘I hope by the end of the year it’s that way,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘I don’t know if anybody has roles in particular [yet], except for Reed. I would like to say that [the bullpen is a strength]. We’re confident in it; I’m confident in it. But at the end of the year, we’ll find out. For right now, I’m pretty happy where we’re at and where we’re going with the guys we have out there.’’
NOTE: The annual Civil Rights Game will be played in Chicago for the first time when the Sox host the Texas Rangers on Aug. 24
at U.S Cellular Field. It will be the first Civil Rights Game for the Rangers but the third for the Sox.
Major League Baseball created the game to pay tribute to those who fought on and off the field for equal rights in America. The game was played at Auto Zone Park in Memphis, Tenn., in 2007 and 2008, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati in 2009 and 2010 and at Turner Field in Atlanta the last two seasons. The Sox played the Mets in 2008 and the Reds in 2009.