For most of the spring we've danced around the White Sox bullpen, looking for a closer. We examined Hector Santiago and Matt Thornton, we scouted Addison Reed and Jesse Crain.
Turns out the answer is E: none of the above. It's time for everyone in the South Side bullpen to slide down, time to make room for Chris Sale.
Oh Robin Ventura, how you slay us.
On Friday afternoon the White Sox unveiled the latest stunner in what's become the Great Closer Drought of 2012: Sale, their highly-touted lefty stud, will return to the bullpen, effective Monday. The move clearly had nothing to do with Sale's performance through five starts (2.81 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, eight walks, 29 strikeouts); he's been terrific in his new role. Apparently the club is concerned about Sale's ability to hold up in the rotation - he's got an unusual delivery, a low arm slot, and a 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame. Sale's also been dealing with a tender elbow of late, but no one was discussing that as a serious issue.
"It's not disappointing to us, it's disappointing to him because this was something he's always wanted to do,'' pitching coach Don Cooper told the Chicago Sun-Times before Friday's game. "We're not making this decision based on what's best for the team because obviously he's starting and doing well and that would be a wonderful thing to keep him in. We feel we're doing what's best for him, his career and his health. It's the best way to keep him healthy and strong.''
In the meantime, you can get ready to drop some of your save-chasing options in the Chicago bullpen (after this weekend, that is), depending on your league specs and how valuable non-closing relievers are. I can't imagine Sale not taking this job and running with it, health permitting. Right-handed prospect Dylan Axelrod is replacing Sale in the rotation, but you probably won't want to risk him in Monday's turn against Detroit.
As for the other Chicago ballclub, Rafael Dolis picked up a save in Friday's matinee victory over the Dodgers, but it wasn't the smoothest landing. Dolis only threw 6-of-17 pitches for strikes, he plunked one batter, and two of the outs came on sharply-hit balls. At least Dolis can boast of a scoreless frame; some of his competitors struggled earlier in the day. James Russell allowed two hits and a run in the seventh and Kerry Wood was messy (1 H, 2 R, 1 BB) in the eighth. Shawn Camp worked between Russell and Wood, walking one batter and striking out one.
Carlos Marmol, who was given his closer-demotion papers earlier in the day, did not pitch.