Chicago White Sox: Maikel Cleto

Scout Paul Provas dies at 63

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:35
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Longtime Chicago White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away Thursday morning at the age of 63.

Provas was hired by the White Sox in the winter of 1992 as an amateur scout whose coverage area ranged from Kansas and Missouri, through Nebraska and Colorado and on into Wyoming. He scouted future major leaguers like Joe Crede, John Danks, Kip Wells, Boone Logan and Chris Young.

He became a full-time professional scout for the White Sox during the 2005 World Series championship season. He has been inducted into both the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame and the Midwest Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame, both in 2011.

Most recently, Provas recommended both reliever Maikel Cleto and infielder Leury Garcia.

Provas, a Shawnee, Kansas native, was also a scout for the Chicago Cubs from 1987-92.

Services are scheduled to take place next week in Overland Park, Kan.

Rapid Reaction: Royals 3, White Sox 1

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
9:54
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox fell 3-1 on Friday as the Kansas City Royals wrapped up their first postseason berth since winning the 1985 World Series.

How it happened: The Royals got off to a quick start with three first-inning runs and made it stand up behind starter Jeremy Guthrie. White Sox starter Hector Noesi settled down, giving up just those three runs in six innings of work and allowing just three more hits the rest of the way. The White Sox were held to six hits. Guthrie gave up just four hits over his seven scoreless innings. Greg Holland closed it out with an 11-pitch ninth.

What it means: The victory sent the Royals to the playoffs for the first time in 29 seasons, ending the longest playoff drought in baseball. The Royals clinched a wild-card spot and moved to within a game of the Detroit Tigers' lead in the American League Central with two games to play. The Royals are also on top of the wild-card standings, a game up on the Oakland Athletics.

Outside the box: Paul Konerko, who is retiring after Sunday’s season finale, went 0-for-4 Friday while starting at first base. The veteran received standing ovations before each at-bat. He struck out in the second inning, hit a comebacker in the fourth, flied out to the edge of the warning track in the seventh and lined out to left in the ninth.

Off beat: White Sox reliever Maikel Cleto hasn’t had a season to remember, but he has been closing with a flourish. The right-hander struck out all three Royals batters he faced in the seventh inning, on 11 pitches. He has not only struck out the side in his past two outings, he now has 12 strikeouts over his past 6⅓ innings.

Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander John Danks (10-11, 4.82 ERA) to the mound Saturday in the third game of the four-game series. The Royals will counter with left-hander Danny Duffy (9-11, 2.32) in the 6:40 p.m. CT start from U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox will have an on-field ceremony to celebrate Konerko’s career at 6 p.m.

Stock watch: Flowers on a hit parade

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
3:47
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Tyler FlowersBrian Kersey/Getty ImagesTyler Flowers is batting .397 over his past 20 games.

RISING

Streaking
Tyler Flowers, C: The revival of Flowers continued this past weekend. After going 1-for-2 at Seattle on Sunday (he was also hit by a pitch twice in that game), Flowers is batting .397 (25-for-63), with six doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored over his past 20 games. It's a run that started at the All-Star break and has included eight multi-hit games. Flowers' batting average has risen from .213 to its current .250 mark.

Bullpen: Zach Putnam returned from injury over the weekend and now Matt Lindstrom is on the roster again after ankle surgery. Those reinforcements are enough to make it feel like a battered bullpen is on the rise again. But over the last three games there has been a bit of a resurgence, as the relievers have combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings. That follows a dreadful run when they gave up 36 runs, 46 hits, eight of which were home runs, in their previous six outings.

Alexei Ramirez, SS: The All-Star looks all the way back from his midseason doldrums as he has delivered a hit in 19 of his last 22 games and is batting .341 (31-for-91) over that stretch with three home runs and 15 RBIs. He also has 12 multi-hit games in that run. Ramirez is second in games played at 118 and third in innings played at 1,030 2/3.

FALLING

Slumping
Offense: After opening the second half with an offensive flourish, that has all gone away now. The White Sox are batting a combined .223 (44-for-197) with four home runs and nine runs scored over their last six games. That's a 1.5 runs-per-game average. The club also has a .133 average with runners in scoring position during that span. To show how hot they were when the second started, the White Sox still started the day first in the major leagues with a .290 batting average in the second half and were second in slugging percentage (.426) and OPS (.764).

Maikel Cleto, RP: Already designated for assignment once this season, Cleto isn't making much of his second chance. After having his contract purchased on Aug. 4, the hard-throwing right-hander has given up a home run in each of the two outings upon his return. The last was a two-run home run by the Mariners' Kyle Seager on Thursday. Going back to his previous stint with the club, Cleto has actually given up a home run in each of his last three big-league outings.

Adam Dunn, 1B/DH: The big man's one-inning pitching performance Aug. 5 against the Texas Rangers has been his only highlight of late. Dunn has just two hits over his last 23 at-bats and is batting just .212 (11-for-52) with three home runs, seven RBIs and six runs scored over his last 13 games. Perhaps interleague play is what he needs. Dunn is tied with the Tigers' Torii Hunter for sixth among active players with 46 interleague home runs.

Sox bullpen gets the break it needed

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
12:09
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Hector NoesiAP Photo/Andrew A. NellesHector Noesi kept the White Sox bullpen off the field a day after it allowed 15 runs to Minnesota.

CHICAGO -- Rain fell in buckets Monday, giving the Chicago White Sox's bullpen a symbolic cleansing following a filthy performance Sunday.

A 5-3 victory over the Texas Rangers, called after 6½ innings because of a downpour, meant that the bullpen had to only sit back and do some soul-searching.

The relievers will have to take the mound soon enough, most likely Tuesday in support of starter John Danks, but there was no work Monday, a day after they were bruised and battered in giving up 15 runs on 18 hits over four innings against the Minnesota Twins.

Credit White Sox starter Hector Noesi with a seven-inning start, one that technically will go down as a complete game. The rest of the credit goes to the rain that shortened the game, not to mention a Tyler Flowers two-run single in the sixth inning that broke a tie a half-inning before the game was stopped.

“You know, I said to one guy in the bullpen that I wanted to go eight innings to help them,” Noesi said. “I tried to and I went seven, and rain gave me a complete game.”

The bullpen did get some reinforcement Monday in the form of Maikel Cleto, who was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte. More help is on the way, as Zach Putnam started a rehab assignment at Charlotte as he recovers from a sore shoulder. Matt Lindstrom is also at Charlotte, getting close to his own return after ankle surgery in May.

But White Sox manager Robin Ventura did not want Monday’s break for the bullpen to be about getting one day closer to the returns of Putnam and Lindstrom.

“We’re going to have to use them, so, for them, they’re just going to have to be ready,” Ventura said. “They’re going to have to be better.”

Noesi’s intention of going deep into Monday’s game was nice, but in the early going it didn’t look as if that was going to happen. Pitching against the team that designated him for assignment in April, the right-hander made a costly error in the second inning.

While covering first base, Noesi couldn’t handle a flip from first baseman
Jose Abreu and touch the bag at the same time. Instead of recording the third out of the inning, the Rangers got another chance and Rougned Odor took advantage with a two-run home run that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

Abreu got the White Sox close in the third inning with a two-run single and Flowers tied the score with a solo home run in the fifth. With rain starting to fall in the sixth, the White Sox put runners on second and third and looked to have a prime scoring chance.

Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza struck out, though, and with the White Sox bullpen starting to stir, Flowers came through with a two-run single.

"We had that error early in the game and every time you have an error, it always seems to bite you," Flowers said. "They hit that home run and it was looking like it might be a tough day, but [Noesi] did a good job of bouncing back, command pitches, changing speeds and anticipating the rain coming too. So to be able to get deep into the game and save the bullpen, it was pretty good."

Daniel Webb threw some warm-up pitches in the seventh, but Noesi got through the inning, pumping his fist when Conor Gillaspie made a solid play on the infield to get the third out. The delay started shortly after the half-inning ended.

As he did last month after a victory over the Seattle Mariners, another of Noesi's former teams, the right-hander donned a baseball cap with the word “REVENGE” written on the front. He wasn’t about to hide the joy of beating his former team, but then tried to deny it was on his mind.

“I just try to pitch,” Noesi said. “Like with Seattle, I just go and try to throw my pitches.”

Noesi said all the right things, but he admitted that he will bring his “REVENGE” cap with him on the next road trip. He just happens to be on track to start at Seattle over the weekend.

After this outing, anyway, perhaps members of the bullpen can come up with a cap that says “THANK YOU” across the front.

“I don’t know that you can necessarily plan it, but in the end, you’re happy that Hector was able to go seven,” Ventura said. “We didn’t have to use anybody out there in a rain-shortened game.”

Cleto added to help struggling bullpen

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
2:07
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The struggling Chicago White Sox bullpen got a fresh arm Monday as the team purchased the contract of Maikel Cleto from Triple-A Charlotte.

It will be Cleto’s second stint with the team. He made the Opening Day roster after he was claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals during spring training.

Cleto, 25, had a 5.14 ERA over 13 early-season relief appearances for the White Sox before he was designated for assignment on May 10. In 22 appearances at Charlotte, he posted a 5.91 ERA, but had 50 strikeouts, more than two per appearance.

After Sunday’s bullpen meltdown against the Minnesota Twins, when the relievers gave up 15 runs over four innings, the White Sox optioned right-hander Taylor Thompson back to Charlotte.

White Sox make call to Francisco

May, 10, 2014
May 10
8:24
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox purchased the contract of veteran reliever Frank Francisco from Triple-A Charlotte and designated right-hander Maikel Cleto for assignment.

Francisco, who signed a minor league contract with the White Sox on April 14, has not been scored upon in six relief appearances (eight innings) at Charlotte. The veteran of nine major league seasons is 20-22 all-time with a 3.93 ERA, and has 73 saves and 421 strikeouts over 387 relief appearances with Texas, Toronto and the New York Mets.

“I haven't talked to anybody yet, but I guess that's the plan is to be ready [for anything],” Francisco said.

The 34-year-old right-hander was a member of the White Sox organization from 2002 to 2003 before being moved to Texas for Carl Everett.

Cleto, who was claimed off waivers from Kansas City during spring training, throws in the high 90 mph range but struggled with command. He walked 15 batters in 14 innings and gave up five runs Thursday, while walking three, in his final outing with the White Sox.

Extra bases: Reed returns to face old mates

May, 9, 2014
May 9
9:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- It wasn’t that long ago when the Chicago White Sox bullpen was sorely missing Addison Reed.

That lament isn’t being expressed as much these days, although Thursday’s rocky 12-5 defeat to the Chicago Cubs was another reminder of what the White Sox had with their former closer.

SportsNation

Who has played the largest role in helping to settle down the White Sox bullpen?

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    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 104)

Reed returns to U.S. Cellular Field with his new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, for a three-game series starting Friday night and will see that his old bullpen is still in a transition period of sorts.

White Sox relievers had been excellent of late, but their scoreless streak ended at 23 2/3 innings when Maikel Cleto gave up five runs in the eighth inning Thursday. Jake Petricka gave up another run in the ninth.

Petricka has been one of the keys to the bullpen being able to settle down from a rough start. Before he gave up a run Thursday, he had gone 10 innings over six outings without letting anybody score.

Zach Putnam and Ronald Belisario also have played key roles. Putnam has not given up a run over five consecutive outings (nine innings).

After a rough start in a White Sox uniform, Belisario might be Chicago's most dominating reliever right now. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run over his past seven outings and he has a 1.35 ERA over his nine most recent appearances.

Belisario has also retired 24 of the past 27 batters he has faced, including 14 consecutive at one point during the run.

“[Belisario’s] role, at first you didn’t know how it would fit, but lately with him doing two innings it’s been big,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We’ve been able to rotate him and at times with [Daniel] Webb who will grab two innings or sometimes more. You have guys with multiple innings which you can now rotate around and used guys on different days.

“You can give guys days off. That’s been big. Plus they’re not giving up any runs so it’s been a nice feeling for them as a unit. You send a guy out of the gate, they feel like he’s going to get the job done no matter who it is.”

Read all about it: Here is the Rapid Reaction to Thursday’s loss to the Cubs. Also, Jose Abreu is dealing with a new ankle injury.

Keep an eye on this: Andre Rienzo, slated to start Friday against the Diamondbacks, hasn’t lost a decision in four appearances (three starts) this season. He is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA.

Question of the day: With All-Star Game ballots released Thursday, how many All-Stars can the White Sox legitimately expect to have this year?

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 12, White Sox 5

May, 8, 2014
May 8
11:25
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox couldn't close out the season sweep against the Chicago Cubs, falling 12-5 in the final game between the teams this season.

How it happened: Scott Carroll was unable to match the success of his first two starts, giving up six runs and 11 hits with two walks over four innings. The Cubs' offense was powered by home runs from Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Mike Olt, who added insurance in the eighth inning with a grand slam. Alexei Ramirez had four hits for the White Sox, and Conor Gillaspie had a pair of hits in his first start since coming off the disabled list because of a hand bruise.

What it means: Carroll wasn't going to dominate everybody and now the key will be to see how he bounces back when he starts again next week at Oakland. Without command of his sinker, he was left to do battle with his fastball and the Cubs went on the attack. The plus of being a newcomer on the major-league level is the limited scouting reports on you. The minus is that your leash isn't very long when you struggle.

Outside the box: Ramirez had cooled off since putting up 40 hits in the opening month, but he looks to be locked in again. Even with all his offense, he didn't have a three-hit game this year, much less a four-hit one that tied a career high. After going back-to-back games without a hit for the first time in the previous series at Cleveland, Ramirez had a hit in three of the four games against the Cubs.

Off beat: It took a misplayed fly ball in right field and a hit batter with the bases loaded to end the 23 2/3-innings scoreless streak from the White Sox's bullpen. Reliever Maikel Cleto grazed the Cubs' Welington Castillo with a pitch in the eighth inning to allow the streak-busting run to score. The next batter, Olt, then crushed a grand slam. The relievers entered Thursday's game with a 1.46 ERA over their previous 17 (61 2/3 innings).

Up next: White Sox right-hander Andre Rienzo (2-0, 4.50 ERA) will face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday in the opener of a three-game interleague series. The Diamondbacks will counter with former White Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy (1-5, 4.67) in the 7:10 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.

High walk totals signal issues aplenty

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
7:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Getting Chicago White Sox pitchers to throw the ball over the plate won’t be as easy pointing them toward the catcher’s glove.

Manager Robin Ventura admitted there are multiple issues plaguing his hurlers, who have opened the season with an aversion to the strike zone.

The staff entered play Saturday with 114 walks; no other pitching staff in baseball had reached the 100 mark. Nobody is free from blame. The Chicago starters had issued 59 walks, which led all rotations in baseball, while the bullpen was far and away the most generous with free passes, handing out 55.

"There’s a combination of command issues and just maybe pitch selection in certain counts, guys trying to get guys to swing and miss instead of just letting them put it in play," Ventura said. "You know, last year, I would have understood because of the way we played defense, but this year we’ve been playing with a better defense, and I think you can pitch into the zone to have him hit it."

Closer Matt Lindstrom said more than a week ago it was time to let teams put the ball in play and give the defense a chance to do its part. He even planned to make it the topic of discussion the next time the relievers gathered in the bullpen.

He either never went ahead with his planned chat or nobody was listening. Right-handers Maikel Cleto and Jake Petricka each had eight walks, tied for fourth among all MLB relievers, while left-handers Scott Downs and the long-departed Donnie Veal were tied for 14th with seven.

On the starting side, Erik Johnson's 15 walks were tied for sixth in the American League, while fellow righty Felipe Paulino's 12 were tied for 15th -- though Paulino hadn’t pitched in more than a week after going on the disabled list.

Though good feelings reigned Friday after the White Sox rallied in the ninth inning and won on Jose Abreu's grand slam, the earlier innings were marred by the 11 walks issued by White Sox pitchers.

"It’s never good, but there are teams doing the same thing," Ventura said. "[During Friday's comeback], we wouldn’t have had the opportunity unless we worked some walks ourselves. We know we want to cut down on them, and they know they want to cut down on them, so that just has to get better."

Bullpen struggles again, changes possible

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
1:47
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The way the Chicago White Sox tried to give this game away, it was amazing it lasted as long as it did.

Over 14 often eye-covering innings Wednesday night, the White Sox were finally their own worst enemy in a 6-4 defeat to the Boston Red Sox.

White Sox pitchers walked 15 batters and struck out just five, becoming the first team to walk that many and strike out that few since the Toronto Blue Jays did it in a 2002 game against the Seattle Mariners.

[+] EnlargeLeury Garcia
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesInfielder Leury Garcia was called on to pitch in the 14th inning and promptly walked the two Boston hitters who ended up being the deciding runs.
Another gem, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: The Red Sox became the first team since at least 1920 to reach base at least 23 or more times in a game with six or fewer hits.

"We just, for one reason or another, we didn’t seem to throw it over [the plate]," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "So, you know, a game that if you are going to give them that many opportunities, you are little surprised you are in it that late into the game."

When it was finished, utility infielder Leury Garcia took the loss. He had never pitched in a game before Wednesday, but he quickly followed the lead of the pitching staff by walking two batters, who came around to score and were the difference in the defeat.

Garcia could be excused for his control issues. The seven regular relievers to appear in the game walked a combined nine batters in seven innings. Daniel Webb walked three, but he looked worn down after three innings and a whopping 59 pitches.

It didn’t help that Ventura used four pitchers in the eighth inning alone, and with Lindstrom available, he let Maikel Cleto start the ninth inning with the White Sox clinging to a one-run lead. Cleto walked the first two batters before Lindstrom was called into the game.

Lindstrom ended up with the blown save when the tying run scored, but it was amazing he limited the damage to what it was. It was his third blown save on the young season, but in this one, there were actually positives.

"I could kind of see how they wouldn’t be confident in me in that situation, but I was feeling good," Lindstrom said. "I felt like I was ready and did my normal routine to get ready to go out there in the ninth. It was a tough loss. Our guys battled their [tails] off today."

The bullpen issues Wednesday came as no surprise. The White Sox entered the game with a 6.81 ERA over their past 13 games, and their 27 walks before Wednesday were last in the American League. They easily padded that total in the defeat.

So when the relievers gather in the bullpen for Thursday’s game against the Red Sox, Lindstrom said it will be time for a heart-to-heart.

"I think tomorrow, as a bullpen we can sit out there and talk a little about making sure we stay aggressive with our stuff in the zone, because we’ve got a pretty good defense behind us, too," Lindstrom said. “We need to realize that. It’s tough to hit, especially when it’s cold.

"As long as we can make sure we understand we have a good defense behind us and attack the zone, it’s going to be tough to hit. I found that myself a little tonight. I attacked the zone a little bit better with my sinker, and I got outs even when I wasn’t trying to do too much with it."

Who will be on hand for that meeting remains to be seen. After a hard work day, the White Sox could end up recalling a pitcher from the minor leagues. That would also mean somebody would be on their way out.

"I have full confidence in those guys," said starter John Danks, who walked four batters of his own. "I wish I could have gone deeper and saved those guys a little bit, but I have full confidence in those guys, and I believe, truly, whenever I come out of the game that it’s going to happen. Even the best bullpens in the league lose a lead like that. It’s part of it. There are 162 games, and it happens."

Rapid Reaction: Twins 10, White Sox 9

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
5:12
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox failed to close out the series-opening sweep on Thursday, falling 10-9 to the Minnesota Twins.

How it happened: The rebuilt bullpen remains a serious work in progress. Nate Lindstrom blew the save opportunity by giving up two runs in the ninth inning, but that was only a fraction of the story. Nate Jones walked two more batters in a short appearance Thursday meaning he has faced five batters in two outings this season and has not recorded an out. Right-hander Maikel Cleto, who looked good Wednesday, allowed both of his inherited runners to score and fellow righty Ronald Belisario gave up a game-tying home run in the eighth inning to Josmil Pinto.

What it means: The White Sox were willing to trade closer Addison Reed for future third base hopeful Matt Davidson and finding his replacement could be an ongoing process. Lindstrom got the save in the season opener, but he couldn't protect a one-run lead Thursday when he gave up a walk, a single and a triple for two runs. None of the relievers, outside of perhaps Daniel Webb, looks closer-worthy at the present time.

Outside the box: Looking for a lengthy outing from Jose Quintana after an 11-inning game Wednesday, the left-hander lasted six innings while giving up five runs. This one turned into a slugfest, something the White Sox weren't capable of participating in last season. Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn hit home runs, but the surprise long ball came from Marcus Semien, who gave the White Sox a brief lead. It was his first hit of the season. Rookie Jose Abreu had a big three-run triple in the sixth inning. Tyler Flowers set a career high with four hits, but Paul Konerko was called on to pinch hit for him in the ninth with the tying run on third base. Konerko grounded out to end the game.

Off beat: While all the talk is about Abreu's impressive opening three games, Dunn delivered two home runs to the White Sox's cause in the series. Dunn now has 443 home runs in his career, putting into a tie for 38th all-time with fellow long ball/strikeout threat Dave Kingman.

Up next: White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson will take the mound Friday at Kansas City in the opener of a three-game series. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie in the 3:10 p.m. start from Kaufmann Stadium.

Guerra optioned as closer choice looms

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
1:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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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.

5 for '14: Did pen makeover go far enough?

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
10:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Nate JonesAP Photo/Paul SancyaCloser candidate Nate Jones has dealt with command issues at times this spring.
Figuring out who is going to close games is only a part of the equation when it comes to the Chicago White Sox's bullpen.

It is the biggest decision, of course, but after an offseason of upheaval, there are plenty of new faces that will be trying to make themselves comfortable in the holding area at U.S. Cellular Field that sits beyond the left-field wall.

Left-hander Scott Downs is new, not to mention right-handers Ronald Belisario, Maikel Cleto and even Daniel Webb, who has just nine games of major league experience. Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom remain in a duel for the closer role and that decision might not be made official until the first save situation of the season.

While most of the attention has gone to the youth movement being made with the everyday lineup, this year's bullpen has been mostly recognized for its subtractions rather than its additions. Closer Addison Reed was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving some large shoes to fill, while mainstays Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain have also moved on.

And this year's bullpen has already had one setback as right-hander Mitchell Boggs, a member of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic just last year, has been released after he struggled in seven Cactus League outings.

Even if Lindstrom starts the season as the closer, the job figures to be Jones' eventually. Ultimately Jones will have to overcome command issues that not only affected him in the first two months last season, but have also crept up on him at times this spring. The 28-year-old still led the American League last season in batting average against first batters faced (.131), was fourth in strikeouts among relievers (89) and sixth in double plays induced (nine).

While Downs has 12 years of major league experience, that also means he isn't young anymore at age 38. He did post a 1.84 ERA in 29 1/3 innings with the Los Angeles Angels last season before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves to assist in their stretch run.

Figuring out what Belisario will be able to deliver won't be easy. His habit of arriving late to spring training were evident again with his new team. What was also evident when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers was the tendency to run out of gas as the season wore on. May and June are typically his best months, with July being his least productive, next to April and August.

SportsNation

In the event Nate Jones is the closer, who is the White Sox's best option for primary setup man?

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Discuss (Total votes: 476)

If Boggs was the most disappointing addition this winter, then claiming Cleto could be the pleasant surprise if the hard-throwing right-hander can deliver after not gaining any traction in big league stints each of the past three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR



By the time Jones got it going last season, two months of the season had passed and he had already made 21 appearances. Even if he doesn't close, a quicker start could help to solidify roles.

If Webb continues the rise he started last year when he opened the season at the Class A level, it could mean a higher-profile role before the summer is complete. He will have modest expectations early, but a huge year could put him in the team's young core moving forward.

Oblique injuries are tricky since they aren't quite healed even when the discomfort goes away. The White Sox can't afford a significant setback in Lindstrom's recovery, especially since all of their bullpen roles, outside of a late-inning left-hander, remain up in the air.

White Sox deal Elmore to A's

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
12:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It didn’t take long for former Chicago White Sox infielder Jake Elmore to land a new home as he was traded to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations on Thursday.

Elmore was designated for assignment Wednesday to make room on the 40-man roster for pitcher Maikel Cleto, who was claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

The White Sox claimed Elmore off waivers from the Houston Astros this winter. He played in 52 major league games last year and ended up playing all nine positions.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.17 208 174
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .317
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208