CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox bullpen wasn't necessarily the brightest of some bright stars on Opening Day, yet by the time the 2013 season picks up momentum it could be the glue that holds the club together.
Blessed with the ideal mix of live young arms and veteran savvy, the belief is that the late innings will be no place for opponents to forge a rally.
While not wanting to drop too much expectation on his relief corps this early in the season, manager Robin Ventura knows that his bullpen could become the strength of the roster.
"I hope by the end of the year it's that way," Ventura said after the White Sox's 1-0 victory Monday over the Kansas City Royals. "Right now I don't know if anyone has roles or anything in particular except for (Addison Reed), but I would like to say that. We're confident in it. I'm confident in it."
By not defining roles just yet, Ventura could be waiting to see what Nate Jones has to offer. Jones could ultimately wind up as the main setup man, but Ventura is content with sharing the role for now.
After Chris Sale went 7 2/3 innings against the Royals, Jones was called on first out of the bullpen, but he walked Billy Butler on six pitches. Not only that, he inherited Alcides Escobar at first base only to have him steal second and get to third on a wild pitch. Matt Thornton came on to strike out Mike Moustakas on three pitches, ending the threat.
It wasn't the ideal season debut for Jones but ultimately nobody is going to fault him for playing it safe with Butler. And actually, Jones is held in such high regard that nobody would be surprised if Jones and Reed started a friendly competition in the near future.
The dream scenario down the road is to watch Jones dominate the eighth inning, inspiring Reed to do the same or more in the ninth.
"Absolutely," Reed said. "Every time you see somebody do well you want to try and one-up them. This group, nobody will get mad at each other. It will be a friendly competition all year so it's going to be good."
Reed admitted to some typical Opening Day jitters as Monday's game advanced, but when he was called on to pitch the ninth all that went away. He was simply anxious for his chance to pitch and when he got it, he came through, although he did walk a batter.
Reed says he enjoys watching complete games as much as the next guy, but if the starting pitcher starts to take on water, the relievers are ready to do their thing at a moment's notice.
"There is never going to be a situation where the bullpen isn't going to be ready for any hitter or any situation we're thrown into," Reed said. "We're ready all the time. It's nice if a starter can throw an eight-, nine-inning game but that's not always going to happen so we're ready."
Ready is one thing. Stopping an opponents' momentum in its tracks is another, and the White Sox feel they can do that with anybody from Thornton to Jesse Crain, to Jones or Matt Lindstrom, who all could set up Reed for the victory.
"At the end of the year, you'll find out (what the bullpen is made of)," Ventura said. "For right now I'm happy with it, where we're at and where we're going with the guys that we have out there."