Nate Jones’ simulated game went off without a hitch, Matt Albers has started to play catch and Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Zach Putnam are throwing well.
Throw in the fantastic start by closer David Robertson and the White Sox are pretty pleased about their right-handed options in the bullpen. Jones threw his fastball between 96-98 mph and also featured a good slider and changeup during a simulated game on Friday in Glendale, Ariz.
“We’re going to have a good problem coming up pretty soon, which we haven’t had in the past,” bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen said. “We’re going to have a surplus and going to have to make decisions on guys on which direction to go.”
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If they keep up their current performance levels the White Sox won’t have an easy choice. Over his last 9 2/3 innings, Putnam has 15 strikeouts and a 0.93 ERA while Petricka has a 2.77 ERA in his last 17 games. Webb entered Saturday with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
All three pitchers have minor league options to burn if needed. But those choices still appear to be a little bit down the road. Jones, who had reconstructive elbow surgery 10 months and one week ago, still isn’t ready to go on a rehab assignment. Albers still has a pin in his broken finger, though he has begun to make progress, too. And even Jesse Crain has progressed, throwing a 91-92 mph fastball and a good change on Friday, too.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the level of talk about Jones has begun to increase, which is normally a good sign. Originally the White Sox hoped Jones could return somewhere around the All-Star break.
“He continues to progress and that’s pretty much what I get,” Ventura said. “Things are going well, no setbacks. They’re getting closer and when they do that it’s when you start talking more about it and thinking of realistically having him back with you at some point. But he’s done well. In everything he’s done, he’s checked all those points off that you need to get to and he’d be a nice guy to have.”