There are no shortage of closer candidates in the White Sox’s bullpen, particularly if Chris Sale begins the year as a reliever, but Scott Merkin of MLB.com calls Matt Thornton the “frontrunner” for ninth-inning duties in Chicago.
Thornton has long been one of the elite setup men in baseball, posting a 3.19 ERA and 349 strikeouts in 311 innings since joining the White Sox in 2006, and saved a career-high eight games last season as the White Sox relied less and less on Bobby Jenks.
In the past manager Ozzie Guillen has shown a willingness to mix and match relievers based on the handedness of the batters at the plate, even in the ninth inning, and the White Sox certainly have enough depth to go that route with Thornton, Chris Sale, and Will Ohman from the left side and Jesse Crain, Sergio Santos, and Tony Pena from the right side.
Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.
LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.
There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.
The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.