Chicago White Sox: Why Matt Thornton Has Earned the Chance to Close in 2011

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2011

Matt Thornton is going to begin the season as the anchor of the Wite Sox bullpen.
Matt Thornton is going to begin the season as the anchor of the Wite Sox bullpen.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Chicago White Sox held a meeting Friday to discuss the roles each player would play in the pursuit of a Central Division championship in 2011.

Apparently, Matt Thornton was told to get ready to close.

Many had Chris Sale penciled into that role, but I feel that Thornton should be the man Ozzie Guillen hands the ball to in the ninth. 

I thought that before spring training started and I still feel that way.

Sale had an excellent rookie campaign as a mid-season call up, but Thornton has been getting the job done for several seasons. The 34-year-old lefty earned an All Star appearance in 2010 and saved eight games in ten save opportunities.

If Chicago had picked up a proven closer in free agency, I would be all right with Thornton staying in his eighth inning role.

They did not. I feel Thornton is the best option of the arms available.

For the past three seasons, Thornton has been very consistent. His ERA has been in the 2.70 range, he appears in 65-70 games and has been pretty durable. Left handers hit .175 against him and righties only managed to hit at a .203 clip.

Thornton also has the motivation of a big payday from the Sox or another team if he shows he can do in the ninth inning what he has done in the eighth inning the last three seasons. He hasn't shown he can close full time, but then neither have any of the other White Sox relievers.

Sale, who many project as a starter someday, was very effective last season. However, he only threw just over 23 innings with the White Sox. 

Oddly enough, he was much more effective against right handed batters last season. Sale is obviously part of the future and it will be exciting to see if he can continue to dominate hitters over a full season.

Sale has struggled a bit in spring training, but I don't think you can say he lost a shot at the closer's spot because of it. 

It's not so much that Sale lost the job. I just think Thornton has earned a chance to close games for the White Sox with his performance over the last few seasons.