Jesse Crain is on a slow track to come back from an oblique muscle strain suffered last week. The Chicago White Sox reliever isn't about to get back to pitching. After competing for the closer role, Crain's body may have decided where he'll fit into the bullpen rotation.
Crain has been inactive since March 12 due to the strain to his right oblique muscle. According to the Chicago Tribune, Crain is scheduled to play catch on Wednesday, and White Sox coaches are hoping that he can pitch by the end of the week.
The date for Crain to pitch again isn't set is stone, considering that Crain said the White Sox coaching staff hasn't talked to him about that step.
Robin Ventura isn't concerned yet about when Crain will be back in the bullpen. He said, "If you're getting four days away from the season opening up, you'd be concerned and take precautions against that and get some other guys ready."
The White Sox may have to do just that. At the rate Crain is going, he may not be completely ready to pitch against the Texas Rangers on Opening Day on April 6. If he returns to throwing pitches from the mound by Friday or Saturday, perhaps he could get back to live-game action a week after that.
On the other hand, if he isn't comfortable throwing on the mound by the end of the week, Crain might not be able to work back into form before Opening Day. The White Sox probably would like to have him pitch in the spring training games in the days leading up to it.
Crain had been in the closer race to start spring training, although it hadn't been going well for him. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in three innings across three appearances.
In all likelihood, Crain will return to his role as a middle reliever. Crain did well for the White Sox last season, posting a 2.62 ERA in 67 games, with 65.1 innings pitched, 70 strikeouts and 31 walks.
The White Sox will need Crain back in the bullpen by Opening Day to help build an effective bridge to the closer. If he doesn't make it back in time, the White Sox may go with Hector Santiago in Crain's role until he's back. Hopefully, Crain makes a strong recovery to provide a good veteran presence in the bullpen.