As the Chicago White Sox prepare to enter spring training, the time has come to take a look at what this team will look like when the season begins on April 1.
In a follow up to an article I recently wrote regarding the White Sox starting pitching, I will now examine how the bullpen will shape up for the 2013 season.
In 2012, the bullpen was one of the strengths of the team, and at this point, it looks like it may be again.
The White Sox will return most of the core of last year's pen including closer Addison Reed, set-up men Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, and the hard-throwing Nate Jones.
In addition, they have added free agent right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks and will ultimately take the place of the departed Brett Myers.
So that's five guys who are pretty much guaranteed to be members of the bullpen, which only leaves two available spots to round out the 12-man staff.
There will be several guys in camp that are capable of claiming the final two spots, so it should be a fun spring watching them battle it out.
Here's a breakdown of what the bullpen looks like this spring.
Locks (2012 MLB Stats)
Addison Reed (3-2, 4.75 ERA, 29 saves)
Matt Thornton (4-10, 3.46 ERA, 3 saves)
Jesse Crain (2-3, 2.44 ERA)
Nate Jones (8-0, 2.39 ERA)
Matt Lindstrom (1-0, 2.68 ERA)
In The Mix (2012 MLB Stats)
Donnie Veal (0-0, 1.38, 1 save)
Leyson Septimo (0-2, 5.02 ERA)
Brian Omogrosso (0-0, 2.57 ERA)
Dylan Axelrod (2-2, 5.47 ERA)
Deunte Heath RHP
Santos Rodriguez LHP
Jhan Marinez RHP
The five locks for the bullpen make up a pretty solid group, but with only one lefty (Thornton) among them, you can bet that at least one of the final two spots will go to a left-hander.
Right now Donnie Veal would seem to be the lead candidate to take one of those two remaining spots. In 2012, Veal was a lefty specialist who was just about unhittable. In 13 innings pitched, Veal had a 1.38 ERA and surrendered only five hits and two earned runs, while striking out 19 and walking only four.
What's interesting is that lefties Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago will more than likely be battling it out to see who will fill the fifth spot in the rotation. Whichever guy loses that battle may then be slated for a long-relief position in the bullpen. If that happens and Veal makes the cut, then that would give the White Sox three lefties in the bullpen, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
One question that the White Sox won't have to answer going into this year is, who will be the closer? That role belongs to second-year man Addison Reed, who had an up-and-down rookie season.
The hope is that after a having just about a full season under his belt as the closer, Reed can become more consistent this season. He struggled mightily in non-save situations last year which contributed to his high ERA, but hopefully that will change this season. Reed also needs to improve his WHIP, which was a high 1.364 last season. There's no doubt that he has the stuff to be a big-time closer, now it's time for him to take the next step.
Matt Thornton is the veteran of the White Sox bullpen as he enter his eighth season with the team. He will again take on the role of the left-handed set-up man for Reed.
However, the problem is that over that past two seasons Thornton has been far less effective than in previous years. During this time he has gone 6-15 and his ERA has risen each year. What is also alarming is that his WHIP has been much higher over the past two seasons than in previous years. Thornton is going to need these numbers to trend back the other way if the White Sox want to be contenders.
As the right-handed set-up man, Jesse Crain was about as solid as they come in 2012. His 2.44 ERA and 1.083 WHIP were the best of his career (min 25 IP). He also only allowed five out of 24 (21 percent) inherited runners to score, which was another personal best for him.
The White Sox only concern is whether Crain can remain healthy throughout the season as he missed a good chunk of time last year with various injuries.
Nate Jones may have been the biggest surprise in the bullpen last season as the rookie went 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA.
Though Jones' numbers were impressive, they didn't necessarily tell the whole story. He had a pretty high WHIP of 1.381 and also allowed 44 percent (24 of 54) of inherited runners to score, so he has room for improvement. If he can find a way to improve upon those numbers, he should be in store for another solid season.
Matt Lindstrom was a nice pickup for a White Sox pen that lost the services of Brett Myers.
Last season Lindstrom split time between the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona D-backs and was pretty effective in both places. He combined to go 1-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 46 appearances. He has always been a guy that has given up a fair amount of hits, but the White Sox are just hoping that he can be a bridge guy that will get them to their set-up men in the late innings.
As I stated earlier, it seems likely that the White Sox will keep Veal as their lefty specialist and either Quintana or Santiago as a long reliever, but they do have other options.
If they want a right-handed long reliever they can go to the reliable Dylan Axelrod, who pitched some big games for them in 2012, or Brian Omogrosso, who was also pretty effective when called upon last season.
There will also be a few of the White Sox top prospects who will get a look at a spot in the bullpen and those include Jhan Marinez, Santos Rodriguez, and Deunte Heath. Marinez and Rodriguez are guys that could contribute this year and may get a chance to do so at some point even if they don't make the roster out of spring training.