RHP Nate Jones
RHP Matt Lindstrom
RHP Ronald Belisario
RHP Mitchell Boggs
LHP Scott Downs
RHP Jake Petricka
LHP Donnie Veal
RHP Daniel Webb
They go all this way to end up in the same place.
The White Sox have both opened their bullpen wide for roles to be jostled among its members by trading Addison Reed, but the steady accumulation of spare parts puts them in the same roster crunch as before. Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka are likely battling for the last Opening Day spot.
It’s no longer a question of whether or not Robin Ventura needs two lefties at any cost (the cost being playing Charlie Leesman or worse). There are now two lefties who deserve a roster spot, and a seemingly infinite number of hard-throwing righties. Newcomer Mitchell Boggs averaged 94.2 mph on his fastball last season (when he did not seem well) and would probably have to settle for being fifth in velocity among this group. Webb brings tons of gas, but that’s not in short supply.
But Webb also flashes as much potential for high-leverage work as anyone. In a pen where no one has spent a full season as a closer (Lindstrom splitting a year with Brandon Lyon in 2010 is the most experience anyone has) and no one has a clear claim to the top jobs, Webb could ascend very quickly, or struggle with command all Spring and wind up in Charlotte.
Despite all the veterans the Sox accumulated with Scott Downs, Mitchell Boggs, Ronald Belisario and even Matt Lindstrom the year prior, none are great contenders for more than mid-level roles on a long-term basis. They were acquired because their skill sets (hard sinkers with few other remarkable skills) give them a very high floor for performance in U.S. Cellular Field. They simply will never be hurt as bad by The Cell as their peers, but they lack the all-purpose dominance necessary to be the No. 1 or No. 2 relief option at all times.
Provided Downs doesn’t arrive in camp desperately in need of retirement and whatever the hell happened to Boggs last year can be amended, all four of these guys can be counted on to be average or better contributors, but heart-healthy eighth and ninth innings for Sox fans will likely rely on how Jones, Webb and maybe even Petricka develop.
That’s a scary thought for most, since Webb has barely been seen and Jones ran out of gas down the stretch while his results didn’t match the progress his slider made.
And maybe it will be scary. If there was a good season to spend pumping up the trade value of vagabond veterans while throwing some raw arms into the fire, last season would have been it. But since it was wasted on pumping up Addison Reed‘s trade value (I guess), this season, where a new offensive core will be tasked to grow in a hurry as well, is a fine one. Save these words and hurl them at me for when it blows up into a million pieces.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan