Matt Thornton favored over Jesse Crain and Addison Reed as White Sox’s closer

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White Sox manager Robin Ventura has avoided naming a closer or even giving strong hints about which way he’s leaning among Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, and Addison Reed, but Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times reports that “the smart money” is on Thornton getting the job.

Thornton struggled with some save chances early last season before giving way to Sergio Santos as the full-time closer, but Santos was traded to Toronto and Thornton has been one of the elite relievers in baseball for the past six seasons.

During that time he’s thrown 370 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 10.0 strikeouts per nine frames, including a 3.32 ERA and 63/21 K/BB ratio in 60 innings last year. Crain has also been a very good setup man for a long time and Reed is a 23-year-old rookie who projects as a dominant late-inning reliever, but in the short term going with Thornton makes sense.

Nathan Eovaldi to make 2018 debut for Rays soon

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Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.

Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.

When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.

The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.