It’s a relatively small sample size but the White Sox bullpen has made a strong first impression on the rest of the club.
Unlike last season, when a bullpen riddled with injuries to key arms instilled on confidence on players or the coaching staff, this season’s group has shown it can hold a lead of keep the White Sox within striking distance. On Monday night, the White Sox bullpen delivered three scoreless innings and afforded the offense additional time to get going. The team’s bats finally woke up during a four-run rally in the ninth inning of a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It gives everybody confidence when your bullpen comes in and keeps it right there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That was important last night to be able to just keep it right there.”
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Led by new closer David Robertson, the White Sox bullpen has a 3.51 ERA this season. Robertson struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning and earned the win after the White Sox rallied. He has struck out 10 in five scoreless this season.
With Robertson in place, Ventura has been able to build from the ninth inning backwards with his relievers. Zach Duke and Dan Jennings have been consistent all season and Zach Putnam has produced 2 1/3 scoreless innings since a rough start. In their last eight games, White Sox relievers have a 1.25 ERA over 21 2/3 innings, the second-best mark in the majors.
The White Sox spent $61 million on Robertson and Duke and acquired Jennings from the Miami Marlins to address their bullpen after it blew 21 saves in 57 tries last season and finished with a 4.38 ERA. That group lost Nate Jones in the first series of the season and closer Matt Lindstrom in mid-May, which left the White Sox with no true anchor. Putnam and Jake Petricka converted 20 of 25 saves but the White Sox bullpen was short on trustworthy arms.
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“When your bullpen’s doing that, you feel like you have a shot to come back late,” Ventura said. “If they don’t hold it down it’s like having a leak, it just keeps getting further away from you. So when your guys come in and they do what they’re supposed to do and keep it right there it just gives you one more chance to come back and get them.”