White Sox Middle Relief Could Be Key for Team in 2017

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Apr 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Jake Petricka (52) throws against the Oakland Athletics in the 8th inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Jake Petricka (52) throws against the Oakland Athletics in the 8th inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /
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White Sox middle relief featuring Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam could be strength of team this upcoming season. South Siders aren’t expected to contend, but could use solid bullpen for 2017.

The Chicago White Sox bullpen was dealt a major blow last season with the loss of Jake Petricka to injury. The White Sox bullpen would later lose relief pitcher Zach Putnam to injury in June, and the middle relief would suffer. With the loss of both Petricka and Putnam, the White Sox relied heavily on young pitchers with little to no MLB experience.

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This ultimately hurt the White Sox in 2016, as they didn’t have a solid bridge to their two best relief pitchers in Nate Jones and David Robertson. The White Sox middle relief featured a rotating door of young players such as Carson Fulmer, Chris Beck, and Tyler Danish for brief stints. None of these players were able to establish any consistency at the major league level.

With the potential returns of Petricka and Putnam to begin this upcoming season, the White Sox could very well have a strong middle relief core. Along with Dan Jennings, middle relief for the White Sox could be the team’s strength in 2017.

In 2015, Petricka finished the season with a 4-3 record and 3.63 ERA in 62 games. Petricka gave up just two home runs during that season, and hasn’t allowed more than three home runs in a single season. Petricka’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 2015 was 3.46. Petricka only appeared in nine games for the White Sox in 2016 before being sidelined with a left hip impingement in early May. He would later have season-ending surgery on his left hip.

Putnam appeared in 25 games for the White Sox in 2016 before being sidelined with bone spurs in his right elbow. He would have season-ending surgery in August. In 25 games for the White Sox, Putnam posted a 2.30 ERA with a 1-0 record. Putnam believes the sixth and seventh innings of a baseball game are equally as important as the ninth inning in regards to having a solid relief pitcher. According to Scott Merkin of whitesox.com, Putnam stated those middle innings require having a guy a manager could trust to get outs.

"“There’s nothing like the ninth inning. I’m not taking anything away from guys who have been closers their whole career or are closers now. But those fifth and sixth innings, seventh-inning jams, you gotta have a guy. If you don’t have a guy you can trust … I don’t know if I were ever to manage a game if I’m putting my closer in in the fifth or sixth inning, but you want to have a guy that you can trust.” Zach Putnam"

The White Sox could certainly use a healthy Petricka and Putnam this upcoming season in the bullpen. Despite the White Sox looking like a team that won’t contend in 2017, it will be imperative that they hold onto leads throughout the season. The responsibility to hold leads will fall on the bullpen, and some pitchers could be used more often as the White Sox will be without Chris Sale who could routinely pitch deep into ballgames.

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If Petricka and Putnam are able to help the White Sox bullpen in 2017, they could perhaps boost their own trade value before the trading deadline. Expect the White Sox bullpen to be relied upon heavily with the loss of Sale and a relatively ineffective starting rotation outside of Jose Quintana. Petricka along with Putnam will be expected to hold leads for the White Sox this upcoming season, hopefully they can execute.

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