For as good as the White Sox’ starting rotation has a chance to be this season, new general manager Rick Hahn has been touting the pitching staff’s potential “1-through-12.”
Not only is Hahn willing to take his chances with starters Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana and possibly Hector Santiago, he is equally high on the six or seven arms in the bullpen.
Closer Addison Reed and Nate Jones return from surprisingly solid rookie seasons, and veterans Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton also are back.
So is left-handed specialist Donnie Veal, and Hahn signed veteran right-hander Matt Lindstrom to a one-year, $2.8 million contract (with a club option for 2014) in January.
“He keeps the ball on the ground and in the park,” Hahn said of the 33-year-old Lindstrom, who was a combined 1-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 46 games with Baltimore and Arizona last season. “It turned out to be a nice fit for us.
“He provides us with another back-end option for (manager) Robin (Ventura) and Coop (pitching coach Don Cooper). Our hope is on any given day from the right side (they’ll) be able to have at least two of the three in Crain, Lindstrom and Jones available.”
Lindstrom takes over for Brett Myers, who was acquired in a trade from Houston last July and is now pitching for Cleveland.
The mix of veterans and continued growth of Reed, Jones, Veal, Brian Omogrosso and Jhan Marinez prompted new bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen to set the bar very high heading into spring training.
“How good can the group be? Best in baseball,” Thigpen said before SoxFest. “We’ve got some young guys. We’ve got a couple older guys that I think helped them a lot last year.
“Having Matt and Jesse there, we’re going to look for them to stay in that role and then hopefully I can do my part and help the young guys come along like they should.”
Thigpen takes over as bullpen coach for Juan Nieves, who is Boston’s new pitching coach. Not only is Thigpen Ventura’s former teammate and close friend, he is still the White Sox’ all-time leader with 201 saves.
He managed Advanced Rookie Bristol in the Sox’ system in 2007-08 and was pitching coach at Class A Winston-Salem from 2009-11 before moving up to AA Birmingham last season.
Last year the White Sox’ bullpen ranked eighth in the American League with a 3.75 ERA. There obviously is plenty of room to improve to reach Thigpen’s lofty preseason prediction.
“The good thing for me, one of the positives for me, is the fact all those good young arms we’ve got, I’ve already had them for past couple three years as they came up through the organization,” Thigpen said.
“I’ve had Nate Jones three of his five years. Hector same thing. Addison was different. He took the quick route, but I did have him in one of his stops.
“And there are more some guys down there that have a chance if they have a great spring training that obviously will put their name further up the list. We’ve got some arms that can come in and do a good job in Chicago.”
Reed is looking to do a better job after going 3-2 with a 4.75 ERA and 29 saves, a single-season record for a Sox rookie.
“Just the experience, having a year under the belt, kind of figuring out how the whole thing works, it should be a big help,” Reed said. “We are going to see hitters we’ve already seen before.
“At the same time they’ve seen us before. I think that does nothing but help the more times you go out there, the more times you see somebody. It’s to your advantage.”
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