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Ventura left to pick bullpen's lock

8/19/2014

CHICAGO -- Like using chess pieces to play checkers, or fixing your car with lawnmower parts, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura is going to have to figure out a way to be creative when it comes to his struggling bullpen.

Fresh off the latest meltdown Monday night, it's not as if Ventura has a whole lot of options to make it better. Rosters will expand Sept. 1 so the White Sox are inside of two weeks remaining before some help arrives, but those minor-league reinforcements carry their own question marks.

Ventura is left with nothing to do but play matchups and hope his hunches are correct.

"You can sit there and overanalyze it," Ventura said. "It's being too much in the middle of the plate more than anything. You continue to work at it and hopefully they can work themselves through a period of being more successful at doing that."

Trailing 3-2 to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, Ronald Belisario, Eric Surkamp and Matt Lindstrom combined to give up five runs in the eighth inning, which put the game out of reach.

The White Sox's bullpen has a 9.70 ERA in 42 2/3 innings this month, which has raised the group's overall ERA this season from 3.81 to 4.49.

Belisario, who was the closer at one point this season, has given up 14 runs (12 earned) over his last eight games. Lindstrom has been a shell of his former self since coming off the disabled list Aug. 12, giving up six runs in three outings. All four batters he faced Monday reached base.

Surkamp had been sent back to Triple-A Charlotte but came back this past weekend when Javy Guerra was put on the bereavement list. Daniel Webb has been hit or miss of late, giving up a run in each of his first four outings this month, as he works on control issues.

Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka have been as dependable as the current group of relievers get, but Ventura isn't able to use them every night. He is going to have to find spots where the other relievers can have some success.

"That's always the toughest part," Ventura said about figuring out the best reliever combinations on a nightly basis. "Bullpen stuff, if it goes well nobody says anything. When it doesn't go well, that becomes a focal point. They're frustrated like everybody else. You have to continue to work at it and fight through it."

The downward spiral is now cyclical. Poor results are leading to a lack of confidence and a lack of confidence is leading to more poor results.

"It's like anything else," Ventura said. "Like with hitting, you get one hit one day then you don't get hits the next three days, it's the same. It's an unforgiving position. The bullpen is a glaring position. You come in, you get everybody out, it's great, and if you don't it's sitting there for everyone else to see. It's always going to be that kind of position. When it goes well it's great, when it doesn't it doesn't make you feel good."

It seems to have gotten so bad, that there is a reluctance to attack hitters and take control of at-bats. It is the opposing hitters who are dictating the action at this point.

"If you have good hitters you have to pitch inside, and establish that and your offspeed stuff," Ventra said. "Being in the middle of the plate, more often you're going to get hit like that. Last night we definitely missed some spots. That's part of it, but to get people out you have to establish your fastball inside."