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Frontrunner at closer, Jones shut down

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nate Jones became the first injury of this year's White Sox Spring Training, just one day into camp, when he was sidelined with a mild to moderate strain in one of his glute muscles.

The injury started bothering Jones about seven to 10 days ago, and Jones mentioned it to White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider when reporting on Friday, causing the team to get X-rays and an MRI exam on the injury, said general manager Rick Hahn. Jones will be held out of activity for the next few days and will be re-evaluated in the middle of next week.

"We're just trying to get the thing settled down and stay out in front of it before it becomes a real thing," Hahn said Saturday during his first Spring Training news conference at Camelback Ranch. "We're here for an extended period of time, so there's no need to rush through anything."

"It's nothing with his arms; it's a minor thing," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Jones. "It's just being cautious about him going out there and hurting it more, so just let him rest it and let it heal up. Him being a reliever, you're not really looking to extend him innings-wise. I just want him to be 100 percent before he starts going out there and throwing."

Jones, 28, is considered to have a slight edge for the closer's role vacated by the trade of Addison Reed to the D-backs. Ventura made it clear the competition was ongoing, with rookie Daniel Webb and veteran Matt Lindstrom also figuring into the mix.

It is certainly too early for Hahn and Ventura to analyze how Jones' pain will affect how the closer's role shapes up. The main goal is to get the hard-throwing right-hander back on the mound as quickly as possible.

"Obviously he's going to be a little bit behind," Hahn said. "But there has not been anyone anointed closer just yet, so it is an open competition, and this provides more opportunity for other guys to step up and fill the role. We should know more sometime next week how long this is going to be, but at this point we're not projecting out anything into the season."

"In dealing with Nate, we want him to be 100 percent," Ventura said. "It has nothing to do with anything else but him, regardless of our situation. We need him to be healthy to start the year."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.
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