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Friday, March 28, 2014
Guerra optioned as closer choice looms

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox still aren’t saying who their closer will be, but the situation became at least a little clearer Friday when right-hander Javy Guerra was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

The White Sox had claimed Guerra off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday and, since he has some closer experience, he was lumped into the group of pitchers who might be asked to wrap up victories this season. Opening Day is Monday when the White Sox play host to the Minnesota Twins in a 3:10 p.m. CST start.

With Guerra now out of the picture, at least for the time being, the closer role appears to be down to Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb. All three missed time early in the spring and nobody has stood out as a clear-cut choice.

Jones seems likely to get the job eventually, even if he doesn’t start the season as the closer. Lindstrom saved 23 games for the Houston Astros in 2010. Webb was the longer shot on the board with just nine games of major league experience but remained an intriguing candidate.

Jones opened the spring with a gluteus muscle strain and the first appearance of his high 90-mph fastball in Cactus League action was delayed. In eight Arizona appearances he posted a 2.35 ERA while striking out eight of the 32 batters he faced. He did walk three batters in a single outing, though.

Lindstrom was delayed the longest this spring because of an oblique injury. He had one minor setback in his recovery but was able to make three Arizona appearances while posting a 3.00 ERA. He faced 10 batters and struck out two of them.

Webb missed the opening week of action after a death in his family. He returned to post a 2.57 ERA over seven outings and struck out six of the 28 batters he faced.

At the close of Cactus League play on Thursday manager Robin Ventura told reporters in Arizona that his decision on the role was “still a work in progress.”

The three candidates are vying to be the successor to former closer Addison Reed, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter. Reed won the role in 2012 but didn’t start out with it that season as Hector Santiago had been named the closer out of spring training.

By sending Guerra down, the bullpen appears set. The White Sox don't have to finalize a roster until Sunday, but they appear to be leaning toward a relief corps of Ronald Belisario, Miakel Cleto, Scott Downs, Jones, Lindstrom, Donnie Veal and Webb.