- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The Chicago White Sox's all-time leader in saves has returned to their bullpen.
The team announced on Tuesday that Bobby Thigpen will take over the major league duties of bullpen coach in 2013. Thigpen had been working as a pitching coach in the Sox's system the past four seasons after two years as a minor league manager at Single-A Bristol.
The 49-year-old former Sox closer holds the franchise's all-time saves mark with 57 set in 1990. That was a major league record until the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 games in 2009. Thigpen also has the most career saves in franchise history with 201.
Thigpen replaces Juan Nieves, who left the Sox to take the pitching coach job with the Boston Red Sox. Thigpen will work with manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper, handling the young bullpen pitchers to go along with veterans Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain.
"This is something I am looking forward to," Thigpen said. "I was hoping to get this job and working with Coop will be great. He is obviously one of the best pitching coaches in the baseball based on what he has done since he has been with Chicago. I know he and Juan were close so I just look to be some (reinforcement) for him. He is the pitching coach and I am the bullpen coach."
Thigpen was initially talked into returning as a minor league coach by team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
"He was asking me for years and years when I would see him at the teams fantasy camp if I would be interested," Thigpen said. "He got Greg Walker to come back before I did and Richard Dotson as well. It is just a big family, and I was finally ready in 2007. I got my foot back in the door and everything kind of fell into place from there."
Ventura looks at his former teammate as a perfect fit for the pen.
"I have known Thiggy for my entire career," said Ventura, who was teammates with Thigpen from 1988-93. "Once Juan was hired in Boston and when we looked at it with the players we have right now and him also being a bullpen guy it became a natural fit. This is (a move ) I am very comfortable with."
Thigpen has always had great natural leadership qualities. Down the road he will be a fine major league pitching coach but for now he is happy to have this new opportunity with the White Sox.
"I think it will be (a) smooth (transition) no matter what," Thigpen said. "Last year at major league camp I got to meet the older guys who I had not had much face time with and it was fine. I think as a player no matter how old they are they still want to absorb some kind of knowledge. If I have something to offer they will be more than willing to grab it."