Robin Ventura did everything he could to avoid naming a closer, keeping the bullpen hierarchy secret right up until rookie Hector Santiago came in for the White Sox’s first save chance of the season.
But now that Santiago has hit his first rough patch, serving up two homers last night to blow a 4-2 lead on the way to a Chicago loss, Ventura made it very clear that he’s sticking with the 24-year-old left-hander:
You look back at all the guys that have done it. It’s not the easiest job. But you know, the way I look at it is how he bounces back. I have confidence in taking him right back out there and letting him do it tomorrow night.
Obviously one bad outing doesn’t mean anything, so it makes sense for Ventura to stick with Santiago, but the rookie’s track record suggests it’ll become clear soon enough that he might not even be one of the best three relievers in the White Sox’s bullpen and fellow rookie Addison Reed will be looming as a long-term closer alternative all season.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.