Linebrink hopes to end reputation for late slumps

GLENDALE, ARIZ.(AP) Scott Linebrink(notes) doesn’t want to be stereotyped as only a first-half guy, but the White Sox reliever can’t argue with the numbers over the past three years.

Since 2007, he has a combined 2.29 ERA in the first half of the season, only to see his post All-Star ERA climb to 7.04 over that same time.

While he admitted on Tuesday that it does look like a trend, Linebrink gave explanations for each of the past three years - including the right shoulder injury that derailed him midway through the 2008 season.

“Two years ago, of course it was the injury,” he said of his first season with the Sox. “The year before that, there was a trade (from San Diego to Milwaukee) in there, so there was a bit of a transition period in there. Last year, it was not getting strike one and kind of losing touch of my whole approach. I think there are things in there that we can look at and learn from and improve on, but I don’t think there is one specific thing we can look at and say, ‘This is why it’s been tough for me in August and September the last couple of years.”’

That’s why there is a very specific plan in place for him this spring, with Linebrink and pitching coach Don Cooper getting on the same page.

“The goal is to make him good all year long,” Cooper said.

That starts in camp.

“Instead of looking at the season all together, the big picture, you really have to break it up,” Linebrink said. “We’ve got a goal here in spring training to build each day and stay healthy, and I just have to try and do that each day.

“I’m not entering this season thinking about the second half because then the first half is going to pass me by. I think it’s just being focused on the here and now, getting out there and getting some innings under my belt.”

The good news for Linebrink right now is he starts camp healthy. It also helps that the club signed J.J. Putz(notes) this offseason, giving them options in the eighth inning, instead of feast or famine with Linebrink.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is hoping for Linebrink to be the effective arm they signed as a free agent prior to the 2008 season, but isn’t counting on it.

As it sets up right now, Bobby Jenks(notes) will be the closer, while Putz and Matt Thornton(notes) will be the eighth-inning set-up men. Tony Pena(notes), along with Linebrink, will handle the middle innings.

It’s up to Linebrink, however, to change some minds on how important he can be. That’s fine with Linebrink, who said he had no problem with the team adding Putz to the mix.

“Oh, no,” Linebrink responded when asked about Putz. “We lost (Octavio) Dotel, we needed another arm down there. Having another experienced arm, a guy that can pitch at the end of the game, a former closer, you can’t have enough arms in the bullpen.

“I don’t know how it’s all going to fit in and play out, but it will probably be like it always is - (Guillen’s) going to go with who is hot. For me, that’s my focus: get hot and be able to get in there when the game is on the line.”


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Updated Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010