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Jake Petricka eager to excel in crucial ninth

Updated: August 26, 2014 6:42AM



MINNEAPOLIS — With right-hander pitcher Zach Putnam going on the 15-day disabled list with right-shoulder inflammation Thursday, rookie Jake Petricka essentially becomes the White Sox’ closer.

Entering Thursday, Petricka (2.10 ERA) and Putnam (2.35) each had three saves since the closer-less Sox went to a bullpen-by-committee in late June. Petricka, with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, has the right stuff if he can command it, and it looks as if he will get a chance to prove himself over a sustained period.

“It’s fun,’’ said Petricka, 26, who pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his fifth save. “The crowd is always into it and there’s a little more excitement, although pitching in the eighth with runners on as we often do is pretty intense.’’

Petricka said he has to guard against making the moment too big.

“Sometimes you get caught up in trying to be too perfect,’’ he said. “It’s still the same game between the hitter and pitcher. You still have to throw strikes — that aspect doesn’t change.’’

Down goes Putnam

Putnam had pitched through soreness before the All-Star break and hoped the time off would help. When he pitched in the ninth inning in the Sox’ 2-1 loss Wednesday, he gave up the winning run on two hits and two walks (one intentional).

“Yesterday it was very uncomfortable to pitch,’’ Putnam said. “[GM] Rick [Hahn] and [manager] Robin [Ventura], along with [the training staff] decided off time would be best, give it time to rest up and go from there.’’

A course of action was in the planning stage for Putnam, who will stay with the team. He wasn’t sure if an MRI exam would be necessary.

“Yeah, I was really disappointed,’’ Putnam said. “I was hoping it wouldn’t have to go this route. We’ll take some time off and see if it makes a difference, try to give it a rest. For me and the team it’s obviously a pivotal time to win some games and I’d really like to be healthy and be a part of that. Try to get healthy and come back better than before.’’

Andre Rienzo, 26, was recalled from Class AAA Charlotte. Rienzo was 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 14 games including 11 starts with the Sox from April 19-July 12.

Beckham fighting

Ventura said the only thing slumping Gordon Beckham can do is fight the good fight.

“There might be [a day off soon], but in the end, the only way to get out of it is to be in there and play,’’ Ventura said. “You have to work your way out of it.’’

Through Wednesday, Beckham had hit .125 over his last 34 games. He was hitless in his last three and was 4-for-59 (0.68) over his last 15. His average had dropped to .224, including .194 against right-handers.

Beckham made hard contact in two of his first three at-bats Thursday, flying deep to center and hitting a double to left.

“You’ve got to be tougher than this,’’ Ventura said. “It’s a tough thing to go through, but you have to be just as tough, and he’s doing that. You just continue to fight the fight.

“Mechanically you don’t really see anything [wrong. When you’re missing, you’re talking about centimeters that you miss hitting a baseball.’’

This and that

Bench coach Mark Parent will miss the series because of a family matter.

◆ Pitching coach Don Cooper (vertigo) missed his fifth consecutive game.

◆ Charlotte first baseman Andy Wilkins has nine homers in his last 10 games and leads the International League with 25 homers, 68 RBI and 51 extra-base hits.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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