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Guillen finally identifies White Sox closer

Updated: July 5, 2011 3:56PM



It took three perfect saves for Sergio Santos to have his name and “closer” uttered in the same sentence by manager Ozzie Guillen. It happened Saturday before the White Sox played the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Guillen has been impressed watching Santos save 18 games in 20 opportunities, but his three innings with six strikeouts for three saves Wednesday through Friday were an eye-opener.

“Cubs and Colorado, that’s the best I’ve seen him throw,’’ Guillen said. “I think this kid is going to be better. His breaking ball is going to be better. His stuff is going to increase. He’s going to get a chance to make a lot of money as a closer. He has the right mentality. He has the right stuff. He has learned to throw strikes. He has everything [going] for him.

“The opportunity is out there. Now, he’s my closer.’’

Santos, who has allowed one earned run and two hits with 16 strikeouts in his last eight games, was given a needed day off, although before the game he said his arm felt good.

In only his third year as a professional pitcher and second in the majors, the converted shortstop has embraced the role with the demeanor of a grizzled veteran. Guillen has avoided the “closer” label as a way of minimizing pressure, even though the role is obvious.

“Well, if you watch White Sox baseball, every time he’s there,’’ Guillen said.

“The best thing he has is his mental [approach]. He has good stuff, but the approach to after the game is great.’’

We’re there, dude

The 1-0 victory against the Cubs put the Sox at .500 for the first time since April 16. Their 31-20 record since May 7 is the third-best in the American League behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

“I just got a text message,’’ Guillen said of reaching .500. “I didn’t even know that. I’m not a stats guy. I don’t think [general manager] Kenny [Williams] and [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] pay me to play .500. I don’t think they spent $150 million or whatever they spent [$127 million on payroll] to be a .500 team. I expect better. I continue to expect a lot of things from the players, from myself. This ballclub is not a .500 ballclub. We are better than that, and I hope we can show people how good we are.’’

Meeting of the minds

Williams met with Guillen in the visiting manager’s office before the game.

‘‘We talk a lot about the ballclub,’’ Guillen said. “We don’t talk about family. Cleared some stuff up about when [John] Danks [disabled list] comes back, what move we’re going to make. It’s about baseball things.’’

Asked if Dayan Viciedo, the Class AAA outfielder whose name keeps coming up as a potential addition, was discussed, Guillen said, “I don’t think [Williams is] going to mention that when he sees [red-hot] Juan Pierre the last couple games. No, because that’s a decision we make as a team with the coaches, the manager and the GM.’’

Notes

Adam Dunn batted third and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and he didn’t get much action in right field. There’s a good chance he will play first base today with Paul Konerko getting a rest.

“What can you do? You have to keep playing him,’’ Guillen said.

Matt Thornton, who pitched two perfect innings for his third save in seven opportunities, hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 12 games.



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