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updated: 3/20/2017 8:02 PM

Chicago White Sox bullpen regroups after running out of gas

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  • Chicago White Sox pitchers David Robertson, right, and Jace Fry (80) throw along with other pitchers at the White Sox baseball spring training facility Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

    Chicago White Sox pitchers David Robertson, right, and Jace Fry (80) throw along with other pitchers at the White Sox baseball spring training facility Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

 
 

Bobby Thigpen's contract was not renewed after the 2016 season, but don't blame the Chicago White Sox's former bullpen coach for last year's troubles.

Determined to get off to a strong start, the Sox accomplished that objective and had the American League's best record (23-10) in early May.

It was all downhill after that. The bullpen collapsed from a heavy early workload and the rest of the White Sox quickly followed suit en route to a 78-84 record and fourth-place finish in the AL Central.

Jake Petricka pitched in just eight games before having season-ending hip surgery.

Zach Putnam pitched 25 games in relief before having season-ending elbow surgery.

Bothered by discomfort in his left knee that required surgery after the season, closer David Robertson couldn't hold a 7-1 lead in a May 28 game at Kansas City and never seemed to fully recover.

Matt Albers was one of the best relievers in baseball last April, but too much work took a big toll and the right-hander was barely used over the final two months. The White Sox cut ties with Albers, who is trying to catch on with the Washington Nationals this spring.

They also traded workhorse Zach Duke to St. Louis last July, but the left-hander had Tommy John surgery after a career-high 81 appearances with the Sox (53) and Cardinals (28) and won't pitch this season.

Most of the returning faces in the White Sox's bullpen are familiar this season -- at least for now.

Robertson did manage 37 saves last year, which tied for fourth in the AL. He's on the trade market, but the Sox likely would have to pick up a portion of the $25 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons to complete a deal.

Petricka and Putnam are back healthy, and Nate Jones and Dan Jennings also return.

Jones came back strong last season after battling elbow and back injuries for two years. While making a career-high 71 appearances, the right-hander tied for the AL lead with 28 holds.

On the negative side, Jones converted only 3 of 12 save chances. If Robertson is traded before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline, Jones might be better left in a setup role.

The White Sox don't want to rush any of their top prospects to the major leagues, but Zack Burdi already is making a strong case to be the future closer.

Drafted with the No. 26 overall pick last June after a standout collegiate career at Louisville, Burdi was 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 38 combined innings with the Arizona Rookie League Sox, high Class A Winston-Salem, AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte.

This spring the 22-year-old Downers Grove South High School product has pitched 10 innings in the Cactus League and allowed 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 4 walks to go with 12 strikeouts.

Expected to start the season with Charlotte, Burdi could be with the White Sox at some point in the first half.

"Last year, I heard many guys from Double-A, Triple-A wanting to make the next step and get to the big leagues, so, yeah, that's my goal," Burdi said. "I want to help out this team, I want to help out the organization as much as possible. Whether that's in Double-A, Triple-A or if it's up here, I'm willing to go wherever they put me."

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