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.
Yasiel Puig made a public appearance today. He was a guest barista at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Los Angeles as part of a charity . . . thing. I dunno. I just hope that, after finishing the foam on someone’s latte he airmailed it past his fellow barista at the counter and got it to the customer on the fly 300 feet away, after which he flipped the espresso machine. Gotta stay on-brand.
After that he talked about baseball. Puig, who was demoted last season and then brought back up in a part-time role, said that it’s his goal to be a starter again, if not in Los Angeles than someplace else. As for the someplace else, the Dodgers explored a Puig trade last season and it was thought they’d try again this offseason, but it’s been all quiet on that front.
What is Puig, for his part, doing to become a starter again? Getting in shape. From MLB.com:
Puig has been working out at Dodger Stadium the last two weeks. He is conditioning his leaner body to avoid injuries that have plagued him and working with batting coaches in search of regaining the impact bat that once had him on the verge of superstardom . . . The 6-foot-2 Puig, who last year was listed at 240 pounds, now has a personal chef to prepare healthier foods.
A leaner Puig. That’ll certainly be a game-changer, right?
Yet as a new season dawns, the team still hopes he can recapture the form he displayed as a rookie in 2013. The organization asked Puig to slim down and focus on durability rather than musculature. Friedman sounded pleased with the result. Puig had suggested he weighed about 240 pounds, down 15 from his listed weight in 2015.
Oops. That was from January 30, 2016.
If he keeps getting leaner each offseason eventually he’ll just disappear, right?
Corey Dickerson of the Tampa Bay Rays wasn’t a super huge guy or anything, but he’s going to be smaller this year: he told reporters today that he’s lost 25 pounds. He attributes it to a new diet and a workout regimen and says it’ll help him with his running, swing and throwing.
Dickerson had a down year in 2016, so if losing 25 pounds is something he thinks will work for him he’s got nothing to lose. Of course the best way for him to improve his numbers is to convince the Rays to trade him back to Colorado, but that’s not likely.