“It was like four rookies, five rookies, six rookies, all of that stuff,” Santiago said. “We didn’t know who was coming back or what was going to happen.”
Between June 13 and July 22, 11 pitchers, including seven rookies, moved in or out of the White Sox’s bullpen due to trades, injuries, promotions or demotions. Santiago, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Matt Thornton were the only mainstays in the bullpen during that time.
The White Sox are hopeful those days of bullpen instability are behind them. With Jesse Crain recently returning from the disabled list and the White Sox trading for veteran Brett Myers, the White Sox believe their bullpen is set moving forward.
The White Sox’s bullpen has a 3.89 ERA in 266 innings and opponents have a .240 batting average and .340 on-base percentage against it this season. It ranks 12th in ERA in the American League.
“Having Jessie back and getting Brett in there, it just makes us more experienced,” Santiago said. “You know what you’re going to get out of those guys. They’ve been doing it for so long. We felt we had a great bullpen with the young guys, too.”
The White Sox’s bullpen now is a mixture of young and old.
Jones (3.43 ERA, 42 innings, 37 appearances in 2012), Santiago (3.76 ERA, 38 1/3 innings, 31 appearances), Reed (4.11 ERA, 35 innings, 39 appearances) and Leyson Septimo (4.50 ERA, eight innings, eight appearances) are all rookies. Jones, Santiago and Reed began the season in the majors, and Septimo was called up on June 28.
Thornton (3.70 ERA, 41 1/3 innings, 46 appearances), Myers (3.38 ERA, 32 innings, 37 appearances) and Crain (2.63 ERA, 24 innings, 26 appearances) have been in the majors for a combined 26 seasons.
“It’s always nice when you get veterans that are established back and add like a Jessie or a Brett Myers,” Thornton said. “It’s always going to help to have guys who have experience in big games. Brett has won a World Series. Jessie has been in the playoffs. Different things like that where you have guys who have been there, done that. They know the grind of the season. They know the next two months it’s long and you’re tired and you’re beat up and you know how to go out there and still perform.”
While the other half of the staff is less experienced, Thornton believed they have held up well so far.
“From the start of the season for the most part, Hector, Nate and Addison have been outstanding, especially for their first full year,” Thornton said. “It’s a learning process. People forget this is their first full season in the major leagues. I think they’ve done a great job of minimizing those hiccups and bouncing back the next year even after a tough outing and being ready to go and coming in with a positive attitude.”
With the recent addition of Myers, who was closing for the Houston Astros, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he’s confident in whomever he puts out there in late innings.
“Just puts another veteran down there you can trust,” Ventura said of Myers. “You can kind of have from Crain or Myers to Thornton to Reed, there’s a lot of different things you can do from batter to batter in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.”
The White Sox showed off their improved bullpen in their recent sweep of the Minnesota Twins. The White Sox’s bullpen allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings during the series.
But as effectively as the bullpen has pitched of late, Thornton said that can change.
“It’s always nice to get on a run,” Thornton said. “You want to have a two-week, month-long run where the pen’s lights out. It’s always nice to have that.
“At the same time, you’re coming in situations where in the American League hitters are great. These guys are good. You can make your pitch, and you can get burned. Then it seems like times you make mistakes in the middle of the plate, and they foul them off and swing and miss. And then other times, you make pitches and they hit base hits and beat you. It’s just about going out and trusting your stuff, trusting your preparation and going out attacking the hitter.”