Closing games is a skill not every major league reliever possesses. For whatever reason, some of the best late-inning guys fall apart when they are asked to get the final three outs of a game.
Case in point on the South Side, Matt Thornton is one of the best left-handed relievers in all of baseball. He's an All-Star that is as close to lights out as you can get. But as White Sox fans saw at the beginning of last season, and during his time with the team, Thornton seems to falter more in the ninth inning opposed to any other.
Manager Robin Ventura opened the season with rookie southpaw Hector Santiago as the team's closer. It was a questionable choice considered Santiago had a grand total of 5.1 career innings in the majors. After blowing two of his first six save chances, and seeing his ERA balloon to over eight, Ventura used Chris Sale's sore elbow as his excuse to take Santiago out of the closer role.
The report was that Sale would be moved to the bullpen to take over Santiago's role as closer. That scenario has yet to happen. Since the move, Sale has appeared in one game totaling one inning. He came into Tuesday's game in the eighth inning, replacing starter John Danks, and promptly gave up the White Sox's three-run lead.
After some Alex Rios payback in the 10th inning, Addison Reed came in and nailed down the victory for the Sox. It was his second save of the season and should be the beginning of his tenure as the team's closer.
Reed has been nearly flawless this season, allowing zero runs, five hits and three walks in 10 innings of work. He has struck out 14 and opponents are hitting a paltry .143 against him. Want another dominating stat? He has a WHIP of 0.80, putting him in the top 10 among all relievers with at least 10 innings pitched.
The 6'4" right-hander has a fastball that stays in the mid-to-upper 90s and a devastating breaking ball. He showed his mental toughness while at San Diego State when he went from closing games to starting them after Stephen Strasburg was taken No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals.
Making Reed the closer would also stabilize the pitching staff and give Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper some flexibility early in the season. Sale could be placed on the 15-day DL to help him recover from his sore elbow and then be eased back into the starting rotation where he was excelling. Matt Thronton and Jessie Crain, once off the DL, would take over the seventh and eighth innings with Santiago, Nate Jones, Will Ohman and Zach Stewart working the rest.
The AL Central is a winnable division for the White Sox. The Indians are not expected to keep up their pace and the Tigers have shown they aren't as good on the field as they are on paper. Giving Reed the closing duties will help the team contend this season and will help shape the bullpen for the future.
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