If the fantasy community is ever going to get any actionable information out of White Sox manager Robin Ventura, we're probably going to need to use the special ops team and the secret prison. I'll make contact with Karabell and Gleeman. We'll initiate the Piniella Protocol. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
No, that's a joke. There is no ops team and no prison (officially). But Ventura is making life somewhat difficult for fantasy owners, as he hasn't yet detailed all of his late-inning plans.
In a Thursday interview with Chris Rongey of WSCR 670 in Chicago, Ventura offered these comments when asked about his team's bullpen hierarchy:
"I've talked to [the players] about what we're looking to do. I just don't feel the need to announce it to everybody, how I'm gonna use my bullpen. ... It's like a lot of other things. I don't feel the need to publicly put it out there, every single thing we do. I don't let everybody know our signs, either."
At one level, this is mildly annoying -- at least to those of us who manage fantasy portfolios. Yet at another level, Ventura's secretive approach deserves our sincere respect. If Robin believes that some small strategic advantage can be gained by not publicly naming a closer, then I suppose he's doing the right thing, even if it inconveniences a few thousand fantasy owners.
Recent context clues point to this man emerging as a key late-inning pitcher for Chicago...
That's Hector Santiago, a 24-year-old who's had a terrific spring (0.82 ERA, 13 Ks in 11.0 IP). He's a hard-throwing lefty who features an effective screwball, and he's been a high-buzz player during the exhibition season. Santiago pitched the ninth against the Astros on Tuesday, set up by Addison Reed, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton, in that order. If a save situation presents itself in Friday's opener at Texas, Santiago could very well get the call ... unless the call goes instead to Thornton or Crain. Or Reed.
Or, as pitching coach Don Cooper said this week, "It could be any of the seven guys we have in the bullpen."
You might recall that only three weeks ago, Ventura referred to Thornton and Crain as "the best options" for the closing gig. Today, however, the situation isn't so clear. The pitchers themselves already know their intended roles — this won't be a committee, according to Coop — but the rest of us have been deliberately kept in the dark.
Thus, I've become a compulsive hoarder of White Sox relievers. Several of my rosters currently feature 2-3 members of this 'pen. Santiago is only owned in six percent of Yahoo! leagues, so most of you can still make a short-term investment here. Just like any other lottery, you can't win this one if you don't play.
Post-opener update: Reed pitched the seventh on Friday and Matt Thornton took the eighth, facing the heart of Texas' batting order with the Sox trailing by a run. So the clues continue to pile up, and Santiago is still a prime suspect. Make the add, if you haven't already.
Update No. 2: There it is. Hector earns the first save for the Sox, working a 1-2-3 ninth against Texas on Saturday night, protecting a one-run lead. And Thornton gets the win, so there were stats for everyone. Santiago is clearly the guy to own in this 'pen. This is the call after last call.