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posted: 1/26/2014 7:18 PM

Jones favorite to fill closer's role

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  • Nate Jones, who possesses a 100-mph fastball, will head to spring training as the favorite to replace the traded Addison Reed as the White Sox closer.

      Nate Jones, who possesses a 100-mph fastball, will head to spring training as the favorite to replace the traded Addison Reed as the White Sox closer.
    Associated Press

 
 

Another SoxFest is in the books, so baseball is back in the deep freeze on the South Side until the March 31 season opener against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

News and notes from the weekend:

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Closer controversies are usually reserved for good teams, and considering they lost 99 games a season ago, the White Sox are not in that category.

Nevertheless, it was a hot topic at the Palmer House. Let's stick with Nate Jones as the favorite to replace Addison Reed, who was traded to the Diamondbacks for third baseman Matt Davidson.

"Everybody knows right now that closer spot is open," Jones said. "It's maybe a little bit more motivation trying to go after something like that. But other than that it's a normal off-season, just getting ready to go."

Jones throws a 100-mph fastball, so he's got the power needed to pitch in the ninth inning. The right-hander's slider also improved last year, but Jones still struggles to get his curveball and changeup over the plate and that allows opposing hitters to sit on his fastball.

If Jones can at least show one of the latter two pitches from time to time, he should be good to go. Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb are the other two options.

While we let this "controversy" play itself out through spring training, here is a solid thought from pitching coach Don Cooper: "I'm hoping like (heck) that we're in a position that the closer role is really, really important. That means we have the frickin' lead."

Hawk thoughts:

It wouldn't be SoxFest without a prediction on the upcoming season from iconic TV broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

"I'm not going to make any predictions this year," Hawk said. "Last year at SoxFest I told all the fans, 'We're going to have some fun this year.' My prediction because of all this good young talent, I'm going to make it on March 27, that's the last televised (Cactus League) game we're going to do. I'm just hoping this can be the first step towards getting this ballclub in a position to being a contender for (20)15, '16, '17 and '18."

Harrelson did make an unsolicited forecast on general manager Rick Hahn. "I don't think he's done yet. I think there are a couple of other moves he wants to make, that he's going to try to make, and he might make 'em. And if he does, it would be unbelievable."

Fan favorite:

White Sox fans are going to love new center fielder Adam Eaton, who came over from the Diamondbacks in the three-way trade that sent left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago to the Angels.

Not only does Eaton study the history of the game, he's cut from the same cloth as former center fielder Aaron Rowand and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

"I like to be a thorn in the sides for (other teams), sure," Eaton said. "I'm 5-foot-8, so I can't really rely on my physical traits as much as my demeanor, I guess. If I can bother the other team, it helps my team."

The outlook:

Considering they were 63-99 a year ago, I think getting back to the .500 mark is the obvious goal for the White Sox this season.

GM Rick Hahn expects the Sox to contend this year -- but he is realistic.

"We are not going to write off any season, especially one where we feel we have quality starting pitching and a solid bullpen, as is the case right now," Hahn said. "But the most important thing for us is going to be to allow these young guys some room to grow, to allow the new hitting philosophy Todd Steverson, our new hitting coach, is putting in place along with Robin (Ventura) and Harold (Baines), allow that a chance to flourish, and see what we envision in terms of a young core of the next generation of White Sox players start to coalesce and come together and grow towards a sustained run of championship success."

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