Eyes on bullpen as second half nears
July, 17, 2014
By Doug Padilla
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastMatt Lindstrom's return could help shore up the White Sox's bullpen.CHICAGO -- Bullpens are fickle beasts that shine one year, regress the next and flourish again down the road, often without any rhyme or reason.
It can also be the area of highest turnover on a team as combinations are adjusted, injuries take their toll and youth is required to mesh seamlessly with proven veterans and journeymen.
As the second half of this season begins, consider the Chicago White Sox in dire need of finding the correct combination.
Nobody expected the White Sox to have one of the better bullpens in the league -- and that was when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in February and all were believed to be in good health. Closer Addison Reed had just been traded and there was no obvious candidate to replace him.
Blame general manager Rick Hahn all you want for the perceived bullpen oversight, but it seemed pretty clear that to get better in other areas, the bullpen was going to be one of the areas of sacrifice. It isn't easy to rebuild an entire roster in one offseason.
Not only were the White Sox saving about $1.5 million in this year’s Opening Day bullpen, compared to last year, but then the plan to fill the closer role on the fly took a big hit when both Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones went down in spring training with injuries.
Jones still isn’t back after having surgery on his back and Lindstrom has been out since mid-May after surgery on his ankle. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam have been great finds to help stabilize things, but the ninth-inning role remains one of the team’s most vexing issues.
For the bullpen to settle into a comfort zone the rest of the season, someone will need to emerge as closer. Lindstrom could be back in August, but he will still need time to sharpen his pitching arsenal, so expecting him to jump right back into the closer role might be a bit much to ask.
One trade-market target the White Sox could zero in on is a young, hard-throwing left-hander who can pitch in relief. It might be a pitcher who won’t blossom for another year, so this year’s problems won’t be solved, but a future need would be filled.
There still could be hard times ahead for the White Sox’s bullpen, but things could potentially stabilize once Lindstrom and Jones return.
Other areas to watch in the second half:
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