Closer Intrigue?

Closer Intrigue?
Perhaps we have underestimated this man // José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

Jesse Crain had a successful bullpen session this weekend, and is scheduled to return to making regular outings after missing two weeks with a strained oblique.  It seems like he'll recover in time to be ready for the start of the season, which is good if you don't like unproven organizational arms snagging Opening Day roster spots.

Missing the middle-third of Spring Training doesn't figure to do wonders for Crain's bid to convince Robin Ventura to make him a closer for the first time in his major league career, though.  And since Robin was already hesitant to take Addison Reed's candidacy seriously due to his lack of experience, that would seem to wrap this puppy up.  The old, experienced guy (Thornton) is going to win the baseball job because no one else has blatantly taken it away from him.  This happens a lot.

Except it didn't happen.

Robin Ventura never named an official closer.  In fact, he said he might wait until April 2nd to name a closer.  Ha!  What a delightfully extended wait to make a fairly clear-cut decision!

Except it's apparently not a clear-cut decision, because the race is now completely opened up.  The excitement over Hector Santiago's strong Spring has spread beyond just guaranteeing him a roster spot, but considering him for the closer role (I mean, you don't just leave the 9th inning to a Sunday Spring Training game against the Giants' B team to anybody*).  And here I was afraid that the deconstruction of the closer job would end with Ozzie Guillen's departure.

When asked if Santiago had moved into the mix for the role, general manager Ken Williams smiled Saturday after a meeting with his coaching staff and replied, "I'm not saying."

That's pretty mysterious there, but it stops of shorting of giving the impression that the White Sox are simply providing misinformation for the fun of it.

 

Ventura on closer role: "I know everybody is putting two and two together, but we did close with Will (Ohman) yesterday."

— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 25, 2012

 

Ventura: " He’s probably in the running, also." #yeahright

— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 25, 2012

 

Aaand we're there!  For good measure, Don Cooper went ahead and echoed the possibility of the 34 year-old lefty specialist with three career saves winning the role.

Assuming that the Will Ohman bit is a joke, and a guy who's demonstrated severe lefty-righty splits his entire career isn't getting a promotion on the strength of a late-career development of a change-up, what is going on here?

It's certainly understandable how Santiago--a lefty who can hit the high-90's, and features a screwball that figures to make him plenty effective against righties--looks to be tantalizingly useful.  Additionally, the argument that Thornton--another lefty with multiple uses--is a better tool to have around for key matchups and for shutting down the premier lefty bats in the division all across the last three innings, is as applicable now as it was last Spring.

But if experience and veteran hierarchy doesn't really matter--which would seem to be the indication by mentioning Santiago and Ohman--what's wrong with Addison Reed?  It's Reed who was aggressively promoted through the system last season, Reed who received a September call-up, and Reed who has been dominant for a longer stretch than simply Spring Training.

Then again, that's all Ventura has really had to analyze anyone personally.  And this is all anyone's had to observe Ventura deal with the press.  If he's really Kenny's guy, he'll probably enjoy concealing details of White Sox business until it's official more than his predecessor.  Thornton might never have wavered from being his guy, but Ventura's gone through the process of pitching his starters against AAA teams just to hide them from AL rivals; he doesn't seem very into sharing what not's needed.

If not, then at least all this indecision means that no one should be locked into their roles too hard, and that things will morph and shift in the pen in accordance to performance.

Which is how it should be.

So much for writing the bullpen preview anytime soon.

 

*Yes, you do.

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