CHICAGO -- Matt Thornton will still get chances to close games but manager Ozzie Guillen no longer is saying that the left-hander will get the bulk of the upcoming save chances.
Tuesday’s news seems to be Guillen’s way of straddling the line between doing what the bullpen needs and not losing Thornton mentally by yanking him from the closer role.
“The closer situation: Whoever is going to be out there is the closer,” Guillen said. “I don’t want to come here every day and explain to you guys if [Thornton] is a guy I still believe in. Yes, I still believe in him. I still have a lot of faith. I think he can do the job. In the meanwhile it’s my job to win games and I will put the guys in there who can do the job on that particular day.”
Thornton has blown all three of his save chances this season, although errors loomed large in the last two. But on Monday the A’s rallied with a double into the gap, a line drive to first base that was caught and the fly ball to the warning track in left field that Juan Pierre dropped.
“Yesterday they hit him pretty hard,” Guillen said. “All the three balls that connected, they connected pretty good. But no Matt has to be ready and prepare himself to be mentally strong and throwing the ball pretty good. His fastball is pretty good. I don’t see anything different from the past. He’s just, right now, the ball’s not bouncing his way. He has to throw more strikes.”
Guillen also admitted that whether Pierre caught Daric Barton’s fly ball in the ninth inning Monday, he was going to make the switch to Jesse Crain. Instead of getting a save opportunity, though, Crain instead came in to clean up the ninth inning. He then took the loss in the 10th.
“People that pitch in the ninth inning have to be crazy,” Guillen said. “Look at the records. There are only a few guys, maybe Mariano [Rivera], but everybody else they’re kind of goofy out there. But the thing is that it’s different in the ninth because the target is on you. You save the game, you get paid a lot of money. You blow the game, [you’re bad]. That’s not an easy gig.”
While severing ties this with Bobby Jenks was awkward, even going back to last season, Guillen has no problem giving his former closer his proper due.
“A baseball closer in Chicago, you have to have the guts and the stones, like Ozzie Guillen, to face you guys every day and the fans,” Guillen said. “I don’t care what people say about me. That’s why Bobby Jenks was an awesome closer in Chicago.
“[The Cubs’ Carlos] Marmol’s good because he doesn’t understand anybody anyways. He doesn’t care because he doesn’t understand what the hell people are saying. And Bobby, he was very cold blooded. That’s why when you are in big cities, you have to be pretty good because you’re always going to be in the spotlight.”