Heading into Spring Training, the White Sox' bullpen was set to produce plenty of headlines. With a couple spots up for grabs and no set closer, I know I was certainly set to write about the relievers quite a bit. Unfortunately, most talk concerning those guys thus far has centered around being behind schedule. But finally, with a few weeks left before the regular season gets underway, it seems those problems are mostly in the past.
Nate Jones appeared in his first spring game on Saturday. Credit: Leon Halip
Nate Jones, who just turned 28 and seems poised to take a step forward as he enters his prime with the White Sox, was thought to be the favorite to break camp as the team's closer. So in a spring training that would be crucial for him, it was too bad to see him start off with an injury.
Jones reported to camp a couple weeks ago with a minor gluteal strain, which kept him out of game action until Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After his outing he told reporters, "Everything felt good." He is now on a regular schedule and hopes to impress Robin Ventura, Don Cooper and company en route to winning the closer role.
There was also some good news on the Ronald Belisario front. The 31 year-old former LA Dodger was signed over the offseason to help stabilize the Sox' bullpen, but didn't arrive until Saturday because of visa issues he had in Venezuela.
From everything that Belisario and Cooper had to say, it sounds like he kept himself in pretty good shape and will also be on a normal schedule immediately. You can go ahead and pencil him into the opening day roster.
Rookie Daniel Webb, a youngster the Sox are extremely high on, was absent briefly from camp last week due to a death in the family. Of course that is just a terribly unfortunate situation, but it was good to see him get back on Friday so he can get out there, play the game he loves, and compete with Jones for the closer role.
But the last guy in the running for that job, Matt Lindstrom, is the only one that isn't past his setback. On Tuesday Lindstrom was set for a bullpen session, but felt some pretty serious pain, putting him back on hold.
The seven-year veteran should be able to get ready for opening day as long as he's back somewhat soon, and because he's still just listed as 'day-to-day,' there doesn't seem to be much reason for legitimate concern quite yet.
Hopefully he, like the other three righties, can put this setback in the past quickly and move onto what we hope will be a healthy and prosperous 2014 campaign.
UPDATE: Matt Lindstrom feels good after getting through some side sessions, and will appear in his first Spring Training game on Tuesday, 3/18 v. Oakland. At least for now, all these relievers' spring setbacks are in the past.