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Mitchell Boggs looks to bounce back from awful season

Updated: March 13, 2014 7:25PM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — With plenty of live arms in his bullpen, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper figures someone will emerge as a closer to replace Addison Reed. A word of warning to Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb and the rest of the candidates, though: It’s not as easy as it looks.

Take it from one of those live arms, former Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs. Last March, Boggs was one of the best setup men in baseball, coming off a career year for the Cardinals’ vaunted pitching staff. But he was promoted to the closer’s role when Jason Motte suffered an elbow injury late in spring training, and the job ate him alive.

Boggs blew three of his first five save opportunities and was 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in his first 18 appearances. By June 1, he was demoted to Class AAA. By the All-Star break, he had been traded to the Rockies and was pitching at
Class AA Tulsa.

‘‘I’m not going to stand here and be a tough guy and say that [the closer’s role] didn’t affect me,’’ Boggs said Wednesday.

‘‘I put a lot of pressure on myself to be really good. I struggled early [and] put more pressure on myself, and I got into a spot where I was trying to do too much and wasn’t pitching the way I was capable. When you do that, you’re in trouble. I got in trouble and paid the price.’’

After that disastrous season, Boggs is hoping to resurrect his major-league career with the Sox. He’s a great candidate for a setup role. In 2012 with the Cardinals, he was 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA and 1.050 WHIP. He just turned 30. His demise was not the result of an injury. His arm is sound. But his mechanics need work.

‘‘Mechanically, I was all over the place early in the year,’’ Boggs said. ‘‘When you’re in the closer’s role and mechanically not comfortable, that’s a recipe for disaster, and things snowballed on me. I’m smart enough to realize that, and I take all responsibility for it.’’

Cooper knows what he has but isn’t making any promises.

‘‘We’re getting him fresh,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I saw video from when he was really, really good, and I saw some video from last year. He was just out of whack more than anything.

‘‘Let’s face it, he had a rough year last year. He spent a lot of time in the minors after being one of the top setup guys. He went to the World Series. He pitched in the World Baseball Classic. That was a big workload. Maybe that workload worked on him last year.’’

It will be interesting to see what Cooper — one of the best pitching coaches in baseball — can do with a pitcher like Boggs, one of numerous pitchers who has done his best work under Dave Duncan. In fact, it might not be a coincidence that Boggs couldn’t snap out of it last year when Duncan wasn’t there.

‘‘He’s the best; there’s no doubt about it,’’ Boggs said.

But Cooper has his own impressive résumé of success stories.

‘‘I feel very comfortable,’’ Boggs said. ‘‘I can see some similarities. Coop’s a little more outgoing than Dunc was. But he knows what he’s talking about. [He’s] been focusing on small things, details that make the big picture come together. I’ve benefitted from that early on, and I’m excited about it.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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