Sunday, April 10, 2011
White Sox may shuffle closers
By Kevin Allen
Special to ESPNChicago.com
It's a problem most managers would be happy to have: an abundance of potential closers.
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spoke at length about his bullpen before Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He refused to back away from comments he made after Saturday's 4-2 win at U.S. Cellular Field that he would be using a closer-by-committee approach moving forward.
Guillen originally tapped Matt Thornton as the club's full-time closer during spring training. But after two blown saves in three appearances, Guillen is now saying he'll give the ninth-inning duties to whichever pitcher is best suited to the situation.
"I've got three or four guys who can close," Guillen said. "I got [Jesse] Crain, [Chris] Sale, [Sergio] Santos and Thornton that can close the end of the game. Don't be surprised if you see one of those guys. We'll do that because someone needs the rest or we like the matchup better. There's a lot of things going through our minds about who's going to be pitching the ninth."
Thornton still appears to be at the top of Guillen's list, however. Sale entered Saturday's game in the ninth and picked up the save after giving up a home run to Felipe Lopez.
"I didn't use Thornton yesterday because we used him too much the night before -- he got too many pitches," Guillen said. "If Thornton was ready yesterday, I would have put him in. That's the way it should be. Meanwhile, don't be surprised when you see Santos on the mound in closing situations."
Guillen pointed to the 2005 White Sox team that won the World Series as an example of using more than one closer. That year, Dustin Hermanson registered 34 saves, while Bobby Jenks, Damaso Marte and Shingo Takatsu combined for 18 saves.
Asked why more pitchers aren't groomed through the minor leagues to become closers, Guillen said that most pitchers don't have the requisite mentality to fill the role.
"The closer has to do [three] things: have one pitch to strike you out and a very short memory. And deal with the media every day," Guillen said. "If you don't have those three things, you can't be a closer because when you save the game, the media's going to be with you and when you blow the game, the media's going to be with you. And when you lose the game today, you have to be ready to go tomorrow. That's why I think Bobby [Jenks] was a great closer."
Guillen wouldn't say for certain whether he believes Thornton, Santos, Crain and Sale possess those strengths.
"We will find out," he said. "They have. Yes, they have. Because whoever pitches better is going to fill the role."
Also, Adam Dunn was not in the lineup on Sunday as he'd hoped. Guillen said of the slugger's status: "We should have a better idea tomorrow of exactly where he is."
Though Dunn took some swings prior to Sunday's game, he wasn't cleared to play.
Kevin Allen is a regular contributor to ESPNChicago.com.