Ronald Belisario has been head-scratcher as Sox’ closer
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter May 28, 2014 9:56PM
Updated: June 30, 2014 12:58PM
Ronald Belisario is the best thing the White Sox have going for a closer, but his on-the-job tryout has been iffy at best.
Belisario suffered his second blown save in five opportunities in the Sox’ 3-2 victory against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night. He settled for a happy ending and a win after Moises Sierra singled in pinch runner Leury Garcia from third with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
That bittersweet result came a game after Belisario pitched a perfect ninth and picked up the save on Tuesday night against the Indians.
Since taking over for injured Matt Lindstrom, Belisario is finding that outs in the ninth might look the same on paper but that’s where the resemblance ends.
“The situation is ‘Hey, we’re down to our last three outs.’ You’re either going to save the day or you’re going to get beat,’’ said Sox bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen, who had 201 saves during his career, including a then-major-league record 57 for the Sox in 1990. “Some of our pitchers made comments last year that three outs in the eighth inning are the same, but it’s not. Not everybody can do it.’’
Thigpen said Belisario, 31, who had four career saves with the Dodgers, “has great stuff.’’ So there’s a start.
“He’s been around long enough that transition-wise I don’t see him having a problem with it,’’ Thigpen said before the game Wednesday.
The Sox also have rookie Daniel Webb as a potential closer of the future, but “you move him slowly,’’ Thigpen said.
Javy Guerra, a March 26 waiver claim from the Dodgers who has more saves than anyone on the staff — 29 — including a Dodgers-high 21 in 23 chances as a rookie in 2011. Guerra made his Sox debut Sunday, allowing a run in two innings and striking out three, and he got two big outs in the eighth inning Wednesday.
Any pitcher who succeeds in the closer’s role will want it forever, and Guerra, who could be an option should Belisario falter, is no different.
“Oh, absolutely,’’ Guerra said this week. “You realize it’s special. Once you lose that you want to get back there. You realize it’s all about getting the high-five and everyone shaking hands after the game.
“I first need to prove I that I belong on the back end [of the bullpen]. I’ve been there, I’ve had success there, but you have to earn what you get.’’
Hector Noesi earned a good no-decision by pitching 7 1/3 innings in the best of his six starts, allowing one run on Jason Giambi’s homer in the second. Marcus Semien tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single — his 12th RBI in the seventh inning or later. Adam Dunn’s sacrifice fly scored Gordon Beckham with the go-ahead run in the eighth.
Belisario was one strike away from a save but Yan Gomes’ RBI single scored Jeff Brantley (leadoff single) after Giambi was intentionally walked in a risky move that put the winning run on base.
If nothing else, Belisario seems loose enough to handle the job. But he knows it’s all about getting outs.
“I like it, it’s been fun,’’ Belisario said. “This is my first time, but I’m getting there.’’
NOTE: Jose Abreu (left ankle inflammation) looks to be on course to rejoin the Sox on Monday. The Sox would prefer to get Abreu ready with simulated game at-bats rather than a minor-league rehab stint. Abreu took 40 ground balls at first base Wednesday, moving laterally and making throws to second base. With manager Robin Ventura, general manager Rick Hahn and vice president Ken Williams watching from the dugout, Abreu finished a short batting practice session by hitting one into the left-field seats.