The White Sox finally have what they feel is a solid mix of veterans and rookies in the bullpen, and as each pitcher settles into a role, the bullpen goes into the weekend series against Oakland thriving as well as it has this season.
At one point this season, because of injuries to Jesse Crain and a different-look roster, six of the seven relievers in the White Sox bullpen were first-year big-leaguers.
Only Matt Thornton was a proven name. The demotion of Philip Humber to the bullpen, as well as the addition of Brett Myers in a July trade, however, gives the White Sox only three rookies in the mix, including closer Addison Reed.
It also gives the pen a 1.45 ERA over their last 16 games.
The other key rookie is Nate Jones, and the White Sox are really watching the right-hander closely these days, especially because he has a 6.75 ERA (13 earned runs in his last 17 1/3 innings) in his last 21 outings.
Jones has limited left-handers to a .181 average over that time, but the workload of 42 appearances this season seems to be piling up.
At Class AA Birmingham last season, Jones also made 42 appearances, but that was for the entire season.
"In the minors, I would pitch an inning and get a day off, or if I'd throw two innings, I'd get two days off," Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times. "But up here, we're expected to win every day, and the coaches and players are going to do whatever we need to do to win."
And despite the numbers, Jones said he still feels fresh. His velocity backs his story, considering the hard-thrower did hit 99 mph with a pitch on Tuesday. The problem was that Billy Butler of Kansas City hit that 99 over the wall for a home run.
"Yeah," Jones said. "It just goes to show no matter how hard you throw, a hitter's going to be able to time it."
What has changed is that Jones is now more of a middle reliever, with Crain and especially Myers now taking that late-inning set-up role that Jones had been inching toward in May and June.
Myers has not allowed an earned run in nine appearances with the White Sox, after again pitching a scoreless inning in the Wednesday loss.
What pitching coach Don Cooper is focused on is his pitchers picking each other up, especially the way the bullpen seems to thrive when they come in with runners in scoring position.
The staff has a .242 opponents' average with RISP.
"That's a good thing," Cooper said. "That means, so far, when guys are in scoring position, we are making the pitches. For a lot of teams, the difference between a win or a loss are situations with two out and men in scoring position."