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Chris Sale says Hector Santiago, Addison Reed have closer-type arms

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 04: AddisReed #43 Chicago White Sox pitches fourth inning during game against Detroit Tigers ComericPark September 4

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 04: Addison Reed #43 of the Chicago White Sox pitches in the fourth inning during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 4, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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Updated: April 29, 2012 8:17AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — From his observation post in the White Sox’ starting rotation, left-hander Chris Sale is watching the competition for the closer job with keen interest.

‘‘It’s interesting to watch because I was in that situation last year,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Knowing how it is . . . they’re handling it the right way.’’

Sale, 22, worked out some kinks during his first major-league camp last spring, settled into a setup role and eventually saved eight games. He said he can’t get over how far rookie left-hander Hector Santiago, his minor-league teammate and roommate two seasons ago, has progressed.

‘‘It’s crazy,’’ Sale said. ‘‘The strides he’s made from then to now, the way he’s pitching and how he carries himself, have been great.’’

Santiago (1.13 ERA), who has climbed from a candidate to make the bullpen to a candidate to close, is scheduled to pitch the ninth inning Thursday. He and fellow rookie Addison Reed (3.52 ERA) have mid-90s fastballs to go with put-away second pitches. Santiago has a screwball and Reed a slider.

‘‘They have some arms on them,’’ Sale said.

They also have a combined 12 innings of major-league experience, and therein lies the potential wrench to the Sox’ bullpen plan. How Santiago, 24, and Reed, 23, react to their first blown save matters as much as how good their pitches are.

‘‘Who knows what the psyche of anyone is?’’ veteran left-handed reliever Will Ohman said. ‘‘You find out who people are under pressure. And you find out more about them in defeat. That’s the game.

‘‘All these personnel decisions . . . you’re essentially doing psychology.’’

Pitching coach Don Cooper raised eyebrows by dropping Ohman’s name into the mix as a potential closer Sunday, calling the competition a ‘‘five-horse race.’’ Ohman (1.29 ERA), who has built a career as a relief specialist, saved one game for the Cubs in 2007, one for the Atlanta Braves in 2008 and one for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009. He doesn’t brag about saving 15 games in 15 opportunities in the Mexican League in 2007, but he maintains any major-league pitcher is capable of getting 30 saves.

‘‘The important thing is who can get you 10 one-run saves,’’ Ohman said.

Whether Reed and Santiago pitch the ninth or get the ball to the closer, they will feel more big-league heat this season than they did as rookie call-ups last season.

‘‘You’re always a closer; it just depends what inning you’re in,’’ Ohman said. ‘‘I think the game is actually decided more in the seventh and eighth than the ninth. Those situations where you come in with runners on base are more high-leverage. The ninth inning is a different animal. Some people can, some can’t.

‘‘It’s encouraging to know I could be given that opportunity. I’m not putting any expectations on it. I’ve done it before.’’

Sale’s advice for Reed and Santiago is to ignore the
drama. If they do, their in-
experience shouldn’t be an issue, he said.

‘‘It could be an issue if they made it an issue, if they let it run their life,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Both Reed and Santiago have exceptional stuff and good heads on their shoulders. The key is to not pay attention to it, focus on your job that day, what you need to get done. Come in the weight room, work out, throw. All the other stuff will fall into place.’’

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