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White Sox Sun May 09 2010

White Sox Lose 7-9: Time To Find A New Closer

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On Sunday afternoon I found myself sitting in between my Dad and my girlfriend at U.S. Cellular Field watching Bobby Jenks win the game for the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, the Blue Jays. I sat there, sulking, wondering how it had come to this. This was not the Bobby Jenks of 2005 who closed a game with a treacherous arsenal of pitches that flew at over 90 miles per hour. No, this was the Bobby Jenks of 2010 who hasn't pitched a single good close all season.

The Jenks of 2005 could have finished this bumpy game off nicely. Gavin Floyd pitched fine except for letting in four runs in the third. Alex Rios was stupendous going four for four and hitting a beautiful homerun in the later innings. Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, and Juan Pierre all played well and Paul Konerko managed a run without hitting his usual homer.

The seven runs the Sox scored were not entirely of their own doing. Ricky Romero really didn't pitch that well today, allowing for plenty of opportunities. Romero even handed over a run when the bases were loaded by hitting Juan Pierre with a pitch. But neither team played a good defensive game. The Sox simply don't have excellent fielders right now. The infield isn't much better. At one point there was a White Sox collision as A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko both hustled to catch a popup, Konerko caught the ball and A.J.'s elbow caught Konerko's nose. It was just plain embarrassing if you were rooting for the Sox. Alex Rios may be able to bat as well as Jermaine Dye in his prime, but he's not the inheritor of Dye's outfield dominance. Thus the five runs Toronto scored going into the ninth. The Sox hadn't played well that day but the Blue Jays had played worse; it was the South Sider's game to lose.

The stadium erupted in nervous encouragement as Bobby Jenks came on to the field. Any half-decent closer could do this. At the time the Sox had a two run deficit. Plenty of padding for a rusty pitcher who had been having some trouble so far this season. But Bobby Jenks hadn't been a decent closer all year. Would this be the end or yet another blowout thanks to horrible relief pitching? The latter. Every pitch by Jenks scored a run. Disappointing doesn't quite capture how bad it was for the White Sox.

Unsurprisingly, since the game, all the talk has been about replacing Jenks might be a good idea. With pitching finally in order and dependable sluggers like Andruw Jones, Konerko and Rios bringing in the runs while Quentin and Pierre and Beckham (yes, Beckham) finally improve, the Sox could actually be a good team this year. But keeping someone like Bobby Jenks in the closer spot could scuttle all of that.

You can't blame Ozzie Guillien for taking his time in figuring out what to do. A poll by South Side Sox of who should replace Jenks is more split than it could be. As I write this, Matt Thornton is still in the lead with 40% of the vote. Sergio Santos has 35%, J.J. Putz has 15% and the rest (all 8%) goes to Jenks. These are not the numbers of a clear solution to a closer problem.

Sanots isn't a bad choice. He's been amazing in the few starts he's had but Ozzie has played him conservatively and in truth, that might not be a bad idea. You don't just put an occasional reliever into the closer spot, especially one who isn't a lifelong pitcher like Santos is. Matt Thornton might be a good idea but as The Cheat at South Side Sox suggests, Ozzie seems to be saving Thornton for tense situations where he needs a left handed pitcher. A good strategy but one the Sox simply can't afford unless they have a solid closer which, right now, they don't.

Brace yourselves people. That four game series against Toronto was a vacation. Next up are two games against the Minnesota Twins, the AL Central leaders. It. Won't. Be. Pretty.

 
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