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White Sox not limiting options for closer role

Soria and Jones have experience closing, but Renteria remaining flexible
MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Baseball bullpens are becoming increasingly devoid of inning-specific labels, but a closer still means something -- especially when you've got a great one.

This time last season, the White Sox had a good one in David Robertson, and a guy who could be one someday in Tommy Kahnle. After both were shipped off in the same deal to the Yankees this past July, Chicago was forced to piece together the back end of its bullpen for the rest of the season.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Baseball bullpens are becoming increasingly devoid of inning-specific labels, but a closer still means something -- especially when you've got a great one.

This time last season, the White Sox had a good one in David Robertson, and a guy who could be one someday in Tommy Kahnle. After both were shipped off in the same deal to the Yankees this past July, Chicago was forced to piece together the back end of its bullpen for the rest of the season.

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The club remains without one, even as one of its lead potential candidates, Joakim Soria, tossed a scoreless inning in Chicago's 2-0 loss to the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex on Friday.

Soria allowed just a base hit in his inning of work, working a trio of groundouts as got through the outing in 17 pitches, including 12 strikes. After correcting a minor mechanical flaw in his last outing and working a little bit taller, he tallied his second consecutive scoreless outing of the spring.

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White Sox manager Rick Renteria was reluctant to slap the "closer" tag on anyone, or even a committee, on Friday, saying that much of his pitching moves will come situationally and could be headed by Soria and Nate Jones -- the only two players on the roster with extended high-leverage experience.

"I don't want to say a committee," Renteria said. "I want to make sure that I have a couple of guys that I can rely on. Obviously right now with Nate [Jones] and Joakim [Soria] being here, they've done that. We're hoping those guys will be able to kind of fill that role."

Video: Jones discusses recovery from elbow surgery

Soria was acquired as part of a three-team deal from the Royals this past offseason, where he'd worked over the past two seasons in a set-up role. The 34-year-old hasn't worked in a full-time closer role since 2015, when he saved 23 games for Detroit before being traded to the Pirates. He's a former All-Star at the position, earning nods in 2008 and 2010 while in his first stint with Kansas City. He's on the White Sox books as their third-highest paid player this season behind Jose Abreu and James Shields.

Jones was limited to 11 appearances with the White Sox last season, posting a 2.31 ERA before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery to reposition to ulnar nerve in his right arm. He'd been one of Chicago's most reliable relievers in 2016, appearing in 71 games and posting a 2.29 ERA with three saves. He's thrown three times this Spring Training, tossing three scoreless innings while striking out five. 

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Even with the experienced pair of Soria and Jones in tow, Renteria didn't want to limit his closing options. He mentioned returning White Sox Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante and Danny Farquhar as players who saw high-leverage time last season. Chicago also has non-roster options such as Bruce Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez, Robbie Ross Jr. and has Luis Avilan -- also acquired in the Soria trade -- as options on the back end.

"I don't want to tie myself down and say we won't ultimately have a Minaya closing out a ballgame or an Infante or a Farquhar or whoever it might be in a particular situation, but I do know that those two young men have experience and have done it," Renteria said. "Nate's coming back healthy, capable of doing a lot of different things. Fortunately for us, our flexibility has improved. Through either experience we're gaining from the guys we have that fell into that role last year and the two men that are with us in Joakim and Nate.

"I think we've got a balance of guys that we're going to have the opportunity and the flexibility to use in that particular role. The other thing is that many of those guys are available and are capable in fireman-type situations, putting out a difficult moment. That flexibility allows us to use multiple guys to either put it out or finish the game."

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim.

Chicago White Sox