The White Sox didn't need a closer Sunday. En route to dropping a 7-1 decision to Derek Jeter and the Yankees before a capacity (39,142) crowd at U.S. Cellular Field, manager Robin Ventura didn't have to sweat out another likely misadventure in the ninth inning.
But … if the Sox were in a save situation, Ronald Belisario would have gotten the call.
Sox scouting reportWhite Sox vs. Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Monday and Wednesday; WCIU Tuesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Sox' Jose Quintana (2-4) vs. Josh Tomlin (3-1) Monday at 1:10 p.m.; Chris Sale (4-0) vs. Justin Masterson (2-3) Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.; Hector Noesi (0-4) vs. T.J. House (0-1) Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.
At a glance: After going 2-17 vs. the Indians last season, the White Sox are 4-3 this year. Quintana is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 6 career starts vs. Cleveland. Out since April 30 with an oblique strain, second baseman Jason Kipnis is scheduled to be back in the Indians' lineup as early as Monday. After pitching 7⅓ scoreless innings and beating the Sox in Cleveland on May 3, Masterson has allowed 19 earned runs on 25 hits in 21⅔ innings over his last 4 starts. Jose Abreu (inflamed left ankle) might be cleared to resume baseball activities Monday. The White Sox' top run producer is eligible to come off the disabled list June 2.
Next: San Diego Padres at U.S. Cellular Field, Friday-Sunday
-- Scot Gregor
"Right now, he is the guy who is going to be in there," Ventura said. "He's going to go back out."
On Saturday, Belisario was booed off the field after coming on in the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead and promptly allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk. The White Sox went on to lose 4-3 in 10 innings, and the tough loss seemed to carry over into Sunday.
It's not completely fair to blame Belisario for allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on hits in 3 innings since taking over for the injured Matt Lindstrom as closer.
Belisario is a proven reliever, but his specialty always has been pitching the seventh or eighth innings and getting the ball to the closer.
Thrust into the ninth-inning role, the Sox obviously are hoping Belisario gets better with more repetition.
And, not surprisingly, Belisario has full support in the clubhouse.
"I truly hope Belisario's in to save my next game," said John Danks, who was superb against New York on Saturday with 8 scoreless innings. "We have all the faith in the world in Belisario, and I want him out there the next time I pitch."
Looking around the American League, it's hard to find dominant closers.
The Twins' Glen Perkins headed into Sunday's play tied for the league lead with 14 saves, but his ERA was 3.22. New Tigers closer Joe Nathan has a 3.86 ERA and 3 blown saves.
Orioles closer Tommy Hunter, who recently went on the disabled list with a strained groin, has a 6.06 ERA. The Indians' John Axford already has lost his job. The Rays' Grant Balfour has a 5.49 ERA.
All things considered, Belisario's not the worst thing to ever come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to perform one of the most difficult jobs in sports.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Ventura said. "You have to have the stuff and you've got to be lucky and tough-minded and all those things rolled into one. It's not just one thing a guy has to have. You have to be all of those things rolled into one."
Ventura was Bobby Thigpen's White Sox teammate for five seasons, and he also played with premier closers such as Mariano Rivera on the Yankees and Eric Gagne on the Dodgers.
Seeing all of them struggle at times has allowed Ventura to lengthen Belisario's leash.
"I've never seen a guy where it's just easy," Ventura said. "More often than not, the tying run usually at least is on base or comes to the plate.
"That's just the way it is. It becomes tougher. Even hitters, their senses are heightened. The strike zone might be a little tighter. It's an obvious pass/fail whenever a guy goes out there."