Rookie relief pitcher Addison Reed was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season.
When another rookie, Hector Santiago, lost the closer's job in early May, Reed stepped right in and saved 29 games -- a franchise record for a first-year reliever.
But Reed experienced some expected growing pains along the way, as is reflected in the following 2012 numbers:
•Among qualified American League closers, Reed had the second-highest ERA (4.75) behind Boston's Alfredo Aceves (5.36). He also had the highest WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched) at 1.36.
•Reed was really rough at home, posting a 6.10 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field.
•Left-handers batted .293 against Reed, a 24-year-old righty.
•The Sox were 6-12 against the Royals last season, and Reed certainly didn't help the cause. In 7 appearances vs. Kansas City, he allowed 11 earned runs on 12 hits in 6 innings.
It's a new year, and Reed reported to spring training with a new attitude.
"I think it's just being more comfortable out there, kind of knowing how to do it," said Reed, a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State in 2010. "Just having that year under the belt will be helpful."
Having Bobby Thigpen in his ear can't hurt Reed, either.
Thigpen, the White Sox' all-time saves leader (201), is the new bullpen coach.
He was the pitching coach at Class AA Birmingham last year, but Thigpen was able to keep tabs on Reed.
"Probably more than anything else, the mental part of the game," Thigpen said when asked about his focus with Reed. "I wasn't here (in 2012), but keeping up numbers-wise, and baseball is all numbers, he had a couple games that blew his numbers out of the water and he spent the rest of the year trying to salvage to get them back where they should be."
"His saves ratio (29-for-33) was great and he did set a record, which is awesome."
Good closers can no longer rely on an overpowering fastball, which is Reed's best pitch. He also had success with the slider, but Reed said mastering the changeup remains a priority.
"Last year, (I started throwing) the changeup," Reed said. "So this year it was kind of just keeping that changeup kind of fresh and not forgetting about it. Just keep working on it."
In his first 3 Cactus League appearances this spring, Reed has yielded 2 runs in 3 innings. On the plus side, he's allowed only 1 hit, a home run.
While he still has plenty of room to grow as the White Sox' closer, Reed is not lacking in confidence.
"Forty or 45 saves, that's my goal this year," he said. "I mean, last year it was making the team. I still feel like I have to fight for that closer's spot. By no means do I think I have that position on lock. I'll try to get that spot out of spring training and after that just try to get as many saves as possible."
The Sox have plenty of ninth inning options if Reed falters.
Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton have experience closing games and another veteran, newcomer Matt Lindstrom, saved 15 games for the Marlins in 2009 and 23 games for the Astros the following year.
"I think what my role has been the last couple of seasons, it's just been that hybrid club in the golf bag," Lindstrom said. "Whatever the manager deems fit for me, whenever he wants me to go in, I'll take the ball for him."