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White Sox add relievers Scott Downs, Ronald Belisario

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The White Sox have created something of a buzz in December by ramping up a youth movement that would seem to bode well for 2015 and beyond. On Thursday, they plugged in a needed piece for the bullpen in 2014 by agreeing to a contract with lefty Scott Downs.

Downs, who’ll turn 38 in March, agreed to a one-year contract in the $4 million range that is believed to include a vesting option for a second year. The deal is pending a physical for Downs, who posted a 2.49 ERA over 68 games with the Angels and Braves in 2013. A sinkerball pitcher, Downs owns a career ERA of 3.48 spanning 12 seasons with the Cubs, Expos, Blue Jays, Angels and Braves. He led the American League with 81 appearances in 2007 and had an ERA of 2.17 that season.

The Sox also have lefty Donnie Veal in the bullpen, along with right-handers Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario, whose one-year, $3 million contract finally was made official. Right-handers Daniel Webb, Jake Petricka and Andre Rienzo also figure in the Sox’ plans after breaking in as rookies in 2013.

The trade for Avisail Garcia in July, the signing of Jose Abreu in November and the trades for Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson this month were made to sustain long-term success, general manager Rick Hahn said. While the Sox won’t be viewed by most as contenders in 2014, Hahn isn’t writing that off, as evidenced by the Downs pickup.

The 6-3, 240-pound Belisario, 30, a veteran who has pitched in 14 postseason games, will be under team control well past next season. He will be arbitration-eligible after the next two seasons and won’t be a free agent till after the 2016 season.

Belisario went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA, one save, 49 strikeouts and 21 holds in 77 games (second in the National League) with the Dodgers last season and ranked fourth in ground-ball percentage (77.9) among relievers.

“Belisario has a proven record of recording key outs at big moments of games,” Hahn said. “He has a power arm with plus stuff and profiles well for our ballpark. He has experience pitching in hold and save situations, and we see him as yet another very strong option for [manager] Robin Ventura in the back end of our bullpen.”

Addison Reed was traded for Davidson on Monday, opening a job for a closer. Jones, Lindstrom, Belisario and perhaps Webb are all possibilities.

A native of Maracay, Venezuela, Belisario did not pitch in 2011 after encountering visa problems connected to a positive test for cocaine. In 2012, he finished third in The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year voting after going 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA in 68 games for the Dodgers.


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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