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White Sox stocked with veteran bullpen arms

Ventura feels group will benefit from defined roles entering 2016
MLB.com @scottmerkin

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 2016 White Sox bullpen won't yet be confused for the relief crew belonging to the Royals or the Yankees.

They don't have three 100-mph throwers lined up such as Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in New York. They haven't been to two straight World Series like Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis in Kansas City.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 2016 White Sox bullpen won't yet be confused for the relief crew belonging to the Royals or the Yankees.

They don't have three 100-mph throwers lined up such as Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in New York. They haven't been to two straight World Series like Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis in Kansas City.

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But in the matter of two offseasons, the South Siders have assembled a solid group from one through seven to shorten the game for their starters.

"It's not the flamethrowers, but we've got guys who can throw strikes, sink it a little bit," manager Robin Ventura said. "There's Put [Zach Putnam] with his split, so there's different things we can do there. We have veteran guys who can just get you out. When they go in there, they know what the job is."

As of the end of February, the White Sox bullpen has some fairly defined roles to go with its secure pieces.

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Closer David Robertson returns for his second year with the team, after saving 34-of-41 opportunities in what he considered a down year. With a true closer in place, the White Sox can mix and match with Nate Jones, Zach Duke and Matt Albers over the seventh and eighth setup innings.

Jones, the 30-year-old who possesses the 100-mph fastball, threw in 19 games last season after coming back from Tommy John surgery. His healthy presence becomes crucial, presenting the White Sox with that second closer shown off by the Royals during their run to excellence.

Dan Jennings can be used as a situational left-handed hurler or for longer stretches, while Putnam and Jake Petricka fall in that all-important swing man category. They both have experience working late in the game, but could jump in as early as middle relief if needed.

"Going through it even a few years ago, it's more role oriented right now where guys are and even going into the season of what they expect and is probably going to happen," Ventura said. "A couple years ago we were so young and those guys, it shifted around. There really wasn't a role. It was basically who was healthy that day."

"We were a pretty tough bullpen last year towards the end of the season," Robertson said. "This year we are going to be a lot better. Obviously if everyone stays healthy and we start the season the right way, and everyone pitches the way they are capable of, we are going to be a tough opponent."

Having a strong 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation that can work deep into games helps the White Sox bullpen, which finished seventh in the American League last year with a 3.67 ERA. They also have depth behind this front seven.

What once was a mismatched weakness has turned into an apparent strong suit.

"I expect to be one of the best in the league this year," Albers said. "We have that kind of talent and guys have done it before."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Chicago White Sox