Surprise, surprise! It's still early in the 2009 season, but an area that is usually a season killer for the Chicago White Sox(2006,2007 & 2008), has be very solid, when called upon this year. Now I know what your going to say, "Ahh...It's only the start of May, plenty of baseball yet to be played. Let's not get carried away here, South Side homer. True, but so far, so good. That is if the starting pitching hasn't put the team in the hole early, or the hitters arn't in the midst of a power outage again. So let's break it down, shall we.....
The back end of the 'pen has be quite stellar. "Big, Bad" Bobby Jenks is the core here, as the teams closer. Since claiming the closer role in 2005, Bobby has been among the best closers in baseball, beer belly and all. His speed might be down from the dominating 100 mph plus he use throw, but Bobby still brings some heat, not to mention a knee buckling curve ball. Injuries have also plagued the big man, but hopefully that is in the rear view. He was shaky to open ,09, but appears to be back on track. Count on at least 30-40 saves for the big guy.( Currently: 0-1, 2.00, 6 Sv's)
Next is a group of talented guys who each possess the talents to be the set-up man on this team, or the closer on another team:
Scott Linebrink, when healthy is among the best relievers in baseball. Over the last few years, he has been dominate for the White Sox, Padres & Brewers. Problem is that he has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Scotty has a sick cut fastball, clocking at 90 plus. When on, he is an absolute beast that is constantly pounding the zone. So far it appears that Linebrink has bounced back from the tendinitis that put him down for a long stretch last year. (Currently: 0-1, 0.90)
The Obama hugging, Octavio Dotel has looked like he has returned to old form. Of course I thought that at this point in ,08, before he started to stink it up on a regular basis. O-Do-tel has a vast repertoire of pitches. His best is probably his sinker, though the slider is great when he has it working. I call Octavio the teeter-totter. This is because he is so up and down. When he's good, he's great. When he's bad, he's horrible. So far, great. (Currently 0-0, 0.00, in 9.1 innings)
Fresh off of the World Baseball Classic, we have Matt Thornton. This hard throwing, left handed specialist seems to keep getting better each year, and seems to finally be living up to his much heralded potential. Matt possesses a over powering fastball, that dominates. Save for a Grand Slam, dealt to him by Tampa Bay, after Colon left him with bases loaded, Thornton has been great. This guy, in my opinion could be a great closer.(Currently: 1-1, 2.70)
Journeyman, D.J. Carrasco. He has been serviceable, in his White Sox tenure. Another guy that is up and down. Like Dotel he can be really good, or really bad. D.J. has a good fastball, but his jewel is an effective slider, that fluctuate speed, clocking from 79-89 mph, sometime resembling a cutter. I will say he has been decent in 2009. (Currently: 0-0,3.00)
Long Relief. Here in lies a serious problem, as far as I'm concerned. Broadway and Richard, much like the Starting Rotation, outside of Mark Buehrle, have been bad, bad, bad.
Clayton Richard has been less then overpowering(Currently: 0-0, 4.80). It seems to be that he is lost coming out of the bullpen. This is reminiscent to me of Brandon McCarthy, in 2005. Uncomfortable is the word. Kid Clayton has a great sinker, and is very good with changing his speed and location. Although he looked great relieving Javy Vazquez, in the ,08 Playoffs at Tampa Bay, Richards looked like a breathe of fresh air when spot starting in ,08. I believe that the youngster would be better served as the 5th Starter.
That leaves the latest addition to the bullpen Lance Broadway.(Currently: 0-1,5.40) The 26 year old seems to have great poise, and has yet to fully reach his potential. This junker has looked good as a spot starter, in the past, but with lackluster speed, it appears the future, for Ol' Broadway, is in the bullpen, possibly as a set-up man. Again, that's "future". Now is just not the time. Back to AAA, young man.
I think a wise move for this solid bullpen, to get better, would be an upgrade at long relief. If Richards goes to the rotation, and Broadway to the minors, the logical move here is Jose Contreras. "The Bronze Titan" has shown flashes in the past few years that he can shine in a long relief role. He might not be the guy throwing complete games, who dominated in July '05-July '06, but the old guy could be quite good for at least 3 innings or so.
With that said, I hope the 'pen holds up for the remainder of the season, and the rest of the team gets there act together. If all the planets align, this bullpen might have the potential to be as special as the 2005 one.
LET"S GO-GO-GO WHITE SOX!