Closing Time: Who Should Be The Chicago White Sox Closer?
Wind the clocks back five years
The White Sox team that went coast-to-coast in first place were truly a complete team that had it all. In June of that season Bobby Jenks stepped up to become the man that Ozzie Guillen went to in the 9th after injuries hampered Dustin Hermanson. Ozzie did have some other options at the time with Cliff Politte and Damaso Marte as options.
However, Jenks with his 98 MPH fastball proved that he had what it took to get the done. Five months after becoming the closer for the Sox, Jenks was the man on the mound when the White Sox captured the World Championship in Houston.
Now in 2010 the White Sox are trying to simply win their division, and overcome the ever-present Minnesota Twins. For most of the season the team's strength was a bullpen that any manager would feel confident turning to in the latter innings. But, as of late the team has run into issue in this department, as the most glaring concern is the closer role.
Looking at the team's poised to make the postseason it becomes apparent that closer is a linking commonality that these teams share.
New York Yankees- Mariano Rivera
Tampa Bay Rays- Rafael Soriano
Minnesota Twins- Matt Capps
Texas Rangers- Neftali Perez
Atlanta Braves- Billy Wagner
Philadelphia Phillies- Brad Lidge
Cincinnati Reds- Francisco Cordero
St. Louis Cardinals- Ryan Franklin
San Diego Padres- Heath Bell
Chicago White Sox- ?
By no means does is closer situation the only area that holds the White Sox season in the balance, but it defintely is one of the more important ones as we approach September.
Bobby Jenks has been the closer for the White Sox since 2005. He has also been one of the best relievers that the franchise has ever had. He is third all-time in saves and made two All-Star appearances in 2006 and 2007.
However, he has run into difficulties this season; which have been coupled with many different nagging injuries. Many have attributed these injuries to Jenks' poor conditioning and poor off the field habits. But, even with the questions surrounding Bobby's durability he is perhaps the best option that the team has in a closer.
Closers are a different breed, and it takes a certain make-up to take the ball in hostile environments with a game, and a season on the line ever night. Jenks has been in that situation before at its highest level, and his resolve has been outstanding.
With important series remaining with New York and Boston; along with more games against the Twins the White Sox are going to be playing alot of very close games down the stretch. Bobby Jenks is a player that has hands on experience in the pressure-cooker, and could be the best option that the ball club has.
The converted pitcher who has come out of nowhere to become of the pleasant surprises for this 2010 White Sox team is Sergio Santos. No one could have expected the positive production in the bullpen that the 27 year old has had in his first year season of real Major League action.
Santos has the stuff to become a closer if he can take the pressure as he features a fastball that reaches the high 90's. He is not reliant on his heater though as he has a very effective slider in his repertoire; which has lead to many strikeouts this season.
Some say that it is not wise to move Santos to the closer role this season because he has not gotten enough big-league experience, or that he is to valuable in a middle relief or set-up role.
But in a pennant race such as the one that the White Sox are barely hanging on to being in, there is no time for half-measures.
One of only two All-Stars to make it to the American League club from the White Sox, Matt Thornton has been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball over the course of the last couple of seasons. Not many pitchers have been as dominant against lefty hitters as Thornton has been.
Thornton could be the White Sox closer in the coming years as Bobby Jenks' role with the team is deeply in question, and Thornton has been very consistent in his set-up role for the team.
Though one of the major blemishes on his record was a game ending homer to ex-Sox slugger Jim Thome of the Minnesota Twins, in what appeared to be an audition for the closer's role on the team.
Finally, a pitcher with closer experience besides Bobby Jenks.
J.J. Putz used to be the closer for the Seattle Mariners where he replaced Eddie Guardado in the position in 2006. He thrived in the back end of the bullpen with the M's recording 36 saves and over 100 strikeouts in that season. The following season was the best of his career as he converted 40 out of 42 save chances, and made the All-Star team.
Since 2008, Putz has struggled. He did not live up a big-contract that he signed with the Mets, and eventually signed a one-year contract for the White Sox.
Putz has done well this season for the White Sox as he has not given up many runs at all. However, he did blow the save against the Tigers in the ninth inning on August 14th.
This has to be the far-fetched of the closer ideas out there amongst the White Sox fateful.
Since joining the big club in the beginning of August, you can't help but be impressed with the 21 year old who is the first player from the 2010 Draft to make it to the Majors.
The only scenario in which Sale most likely will see time in a close situation would be if the White Sox were to fall out of playoff contention, and injuries stacked up among the more veteran bullpen members.
Regardless, Sale has a bright future, as a starter or a reliever. Remember Mark Buehrle was a bullpen member his rookie season for a division winner in 2000.