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Downs sold on White Sox's chances

CHICAGO -- New Chicago White Sox left-hander Scott Downs isn't looking at 2014 as a rebuilding year for his new team.

In a conversation with White Sox beat reporters Tuesday, Downs said the team convinced him they could be a winner sooner rather than later and that the veteran reliever could be a big part of that both on the field and off of it.

Downs wasn't necessarily looking at coming to the White Sox until they contacted him.

"They actually picked me and for me it was a great fit to start the next chapter in my baseball career," said Downs, who agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal before the new year with a $4.25 million option for 2015. "It was a simple fact of what they had to offer. With the rebound effect they are going through, they had a tough 2013. The talks I had about rebuilding, going young, about needing extra veteran leadership in the clubhouse and on the field, it all appealed to me. And I want to win and be a part of something special and I think we have that here."

Downs will turn 38 before the season begins and the easy-going Kentucky native plans on using his 12 years of major league experience to help young White Sox relievers like Nate Jones and Daniel Webb.

He is extremely at ease with the expectations that he will be a leader in the clubhouse.

"I can get along with everybody, I fit in and don't get intimidated," he said. "We have young guys in the bullpen and my thing is for them not to get intimidated. Just have a lot of fun and look forward to it."

There is little Downs hasn't seen on a baseball field. A starter when he broke through with the Cubs in 2000, the former third-round draft pick ultimately reinvented himself as a reliever after joining the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005.

He has even been used sparingly as a closer, saving as many as nine games twice, most recently in 2012 with the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched for the Angels and Atlanta Braves last season in a trade-deadline deal.

Highlights include a league-leading 81 appearances with the Blue Jays in 2007 and a 1.78 ERA in 66 appearances with the Blue Jays the following season. In his first year with the Angels in 2011, he had a 1.34 ERA in 60 appearances, and had a 1.84 mark with the Angels last year before he was traded.

With the age of 40 rapidly approaching, Downs feels as if he still has plenty to offer.

"Turning 38 in the spring, I still feel like I can pitch for another four or five years if my body allows it," he said. "I'm in the best shape of my life last couple of years. As long as my arm holds up and I can still go out and compete and get outs, I'm going to pitch until they take the uniform off of my back."

As far as his role for the upcoming season, Downs isn't about to shy away from anything.

"Nobody will know their roles going into spring training, but talking with the GM, the opportunity for setting up is there in the seventh and eighth [innings]," Downs said. "It's an option that appeals to me. I don't see myself as a lefty specialist at this point. I'll go into spring training with my eyes open and compete for whatever job is there."

And whatever internal competitions arise, Downs expects it to be with a positive and friendly group of pitchers. He remembered a conversation last season with Adam Dunn about the camaraderie in the White Sox's clubhouse.

"The older you get, you want to go somewhere that is comfortable and to hear him talk about how much he likes it there, it's always good to hear," Downs said. "You always want go somewhere where guys like it and comfortable. It was good to talk, but I look forward to talking more in the spring and during the season."