The dust has settled on the White Sox’ internal battle for ninth inning duties.
According to Brett Ballantini of CSN Chicago, manager Ozzie Guillen announced Saturday in camp that veteran left-hander Matt Thornton will serve as the club’s primary closer when the regular season opens next month.
Thornton was labeled as the “frontrunner” for the ninth inning gig as early as February 3, but Guillen and Co. wanted to give young southpaw Chris Sale a shot to prove himself this spring and so they turned it into a kind of competition.
Thronton, 34, has posted a 3.00 ERA and a 5/1 K/BB ratio in six Cactus League innings this spring. Sale, 21, has allowed seven runs — six earned — over 8.1 innings for an ERA of 6.48.
“I talked to Thornton,” Guillen said. “I said he would get the chance to be the closer … A good percent of the time, he will be the guy … Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence [in him]. He is the guy [who] can do the job better. Sale, we [would] have to put a lot of things on his shoulders. This kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.”
Sale will serve as an eighth inning setup man behind Thornton this year. He might also get spot starts here and there if there’s an injury to someone like Jake Peavy in the Pale Hose starting rotation.
It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.
Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.
Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of MLB.com, Scioscia isn’t concerned.
“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”
Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.
After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.
Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez sat out the final series of the regular season in order to rest a strained left intercostal muscle, but there was good news coming out of a workout today in advance of Tuesday’s Wild Card game vs. the Yankees.
This has been a lingering issue for Gomez, who missed 13 straight games with the injury last month. He aggravated the strain on a throw to home plate last Wednesday and was forced to sit while the Astros fought to keep their season alive. Astros manager A.J. Hinch told reporters last week that Gomez’s injury would typically take 45-50 days to recover from, so it’s fair to wonder how productive he can be during the postseason.
Gomez mostly struggled after coming over from the Brewers at the trade deadline, batting .242 with four home runs and a .670 OPS over 41 games.