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White Sox set bullpen for start of season

Santana to make second spring start; team options Ruiz
@scottmerkin
March 24, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told Caleb Frare on Sunday about making the team’s Opening Day roster, the left-handed reliever had one question. “Coop told me, ‘You're on the team. You earned it.’ I said, 'Thanks.' I had to ask him, ‘Are you serious? I'm

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told Caleb Frare on Sunday about making the team’s Opening Day roster, the left-handed reliever had one question.

“Coop told me, ‘You're on the team. You earned it.’ I said, 'Thanks.' I had to ask him, ‘Are you serious? I'm on it?’” said a proud Frare. “He said, ‘Yeah, you're on it. You're going to Chicago.’ Just pure joy. Happiness.”

Frare actually will be going to Kansas City first, followed by Cleveland and then Chicago to begin the 2019 season. Dylan Covey and Ryan Burr will be joining Frare in the eight-man bullpen, while Manny Bañuelos, who has started throughout Spring Training, will break camp as a reliever.

That quarter will work alongside closer Alex Colome and setup men Nate Jones, Jace Fry and Kelvin Herrera. It was an emotional moment for Banuelos, a one-time top Yankees prospect who has not been in the Majors since 2015 with the Braves, and Burr, the 24-year-old acquired from Arizona in '17.

“When they told me there were some tears, but there was joy,” said Banuelos through interpreter Billy Russo. “Now is the time for me to be here. I'm just glad. It has been a very long and difficult path for me.”

“It's crazy. It's everything you dream about,” Burr said. “That was my goal coming into camp, [it] was to make them make a tough decision and I think I did that. I came in, I did everything I could. Honestly, I had no idea until this morning. They kept me guessing.”

Burr posted a 7.45 ERA over eight big league games with the White Sox in 2018, while Frare had a 5.14 ERA in 11 games. But there’s something different about making a first Opening Day roster, even compared to a big league debut.

“Absolutely,” Burr said. “I didn't get a chance to go to big league camp last year so when I went up there for the first time, I really didn't know anything that I know now.”

“I finally got there,” Frare said. “I knew what I needed to work on this offseason, and it's really cool to be able to see it pan out.”

Santana taking the fifth

Ervin Santana will be the White Sox fifth starter with Banuelos moving to the bullpen. But with a fifth starter not needed until April 10, Santana most likely will stay back in Arizona and continue building up his innings and pitch count in his work back from surgery on his middle finger last season.

“We’re still working it through,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’ll throw tomorrow. We’ll see how that works out.”

Banuelos and Covey, two starters working in relief, give the White Sox “some back-side length,” per Renteria.

“Matchups in situations as well,” Renteria said. “They’re actually affording us a tremendous amount of flexibility.”

If the White Sox break with four starters, Carlos Rodon will pitch Opening Day in Kansas City on Thursday and Reynaldo Lopez would get the home opener on April 4 against the Mariners.

Ruiz optioned to Charlotte

Hard-throwing right-hander Jose Ruiz was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte prior to Sunday’s Cactus League finale. Ruiz, whose fastball ranges into the high 90s, was converted to a pitcher in 2016 with the Padres after spending his first five professional seasons as a catcher.

“He’s a conversion guy, but Coop told him, 'You’re a pitcher now,'” Renteria said. “Showed a tremendous fastball, nice slider, commanded the zone.”

Ruiz, along with Zach Thompson, who threw one scoreless inning in Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Indians, represent quality Minor League relief depth for the White Sox who made their presence felt in camp.

Hamilton making progress

Some believe Ian Hamilton could be a future White Sox closer. But he will not break camp with the team due to shoulder soreness following a car accident he had with his fiancé earlier on in Spring Training. The right-hander threw a scoreless inning during a Minor League game on Sunday.

“Going to shake the dust off,” Hamilton said. “It’s kind of like halfway through Spring Training for me. But I’ll just kind of keep doing it day by day and just feeling good each day.”

They Said It

“They were so happy. My mom cried, my wife cried. My dad, he didn't cry, but he was really happy. My entire family was really excited.” -- Frare on his family’s reaction to breaking camp with the team

Up Next

The White Sox play the first of two exhibition games against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Monday, with a first pitch set for 6:40 p.m. MT. Santana will get the start.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.