Matt Thornton is the “frontrunner” to close for the White Sox

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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.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.