Righty Jesse Crain is ready for closing time
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org February 22, 2012 10:32PM
Right-hander Jesse Crain has made it known to the Sox that he wants to be considered for the closer job. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: March 24, 2012 9:06AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Right-hander Jesse Crain seems to want the closer’s job more than left-hander Matt Thornton, but both say they’ll accept how the role shakes out this spring.
Before all is said and done, rookie Addison Reed’s fastball and slider may propel him to the job, but there’s no way the Sox will rush him.
“They know how I feel about getting an opportunity, but I can’t control that,’’ Crain said Wednesday. “I’m sure they have someone in mind they want that to go to. I’m going to work hard, let them make the decision and hopefully it’s the right one.”
Former manager Ozzie Guillen’s decision to have Thornton close last season was a bust, partly for reasons out of Thornton’s hand, partly his own doing.
“I had an opportunity from Ozzie to be the closer last year and I blew it,’’ Thornton said. “I didn’t get the job done. I bounced back and had a strong last few months of the season and threw the ball well. I was going to come out of the gates and be ready to go this year.’’
Manager Robin Ventura backed off the subject Wednesday after saying this winter that Thornton was probably the leading candidate. Pitching coach Don Cooper followed that by saying that was news to him. Crain has four career saves. He and Thornton have thrived in setup roles.
A better slogan
Perhaps the best thing about the first days of camp is putting last season’s “All In” marketing slogan to rest. With lower expectations in 2012, the slogan is “Appreciate the Game.”
“The All In thing got abused last year,” Thornton said. “I’m glad that one is over with, and it didn’t work out well, anyway. I can’t wait to get out on the field and start playing games.
“We have a lot of guys itching to get out there, and some young guys itching to go out and prove what they can do and make this team and prove they’re ready to go somewhere during the season. There’s a good mix of things out here.”
Right-hander Zach Stewart, a leading candidate for one of the three bullpen jobs that appear to be open (behind Thornton, Crain, Reed and Will Ohman ), has value as a spot starter as well but isn’t counting on a job.
“I wouldn’t say I have too much comfort,’’ said Stewart, who pitched a one-hitter at Minnesota last season. “I’m not going to let my guard down.’’
Stewart won’t be letting his hair down, either. Gone are his long locks from last season.
Right-hander Philip Humber had a better first half than second half in his first full year as a starter, but he said he did not wear down.
“My velocity went up as the year went on,’’ Humber said.
◆ Right-hander Dylan Axelrod’s confidence skyrocketed after his good showing last season. A mention in a USA Today “50 players to watch” along with Dayan Viciedo and Reed gave him another boost.
“It’s pretty cool to get the recognition,’’ Axelrod said. “I’m in great physical shape. I worked harder than ever this offseason.’’
◆ Trainer Herm
Schneider also worked hard and looks great after losing 70 pounds.