White Sox

Refurbished White Sox bullpen off to good start

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Refurbished White Sox bullpen off to good start

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.”

[RELATED: Ventura accepting of his critics]

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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“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.”

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

Had this been the scripted outcome, it would've sounded a little too cheesy.

But in reality, it was a moment that got White Sox fandom as excited as the dude rounding the bases.

Eloy Jimenez, playing in his first game at Wrigley Field nearly two years after the Cubs traded him to the White Sox, smacked a game-winning homer off Pedro Strop in the ninth inning, breaking a 1-all tie and giving the South Siders a 3-1 victory in the first Crosstown game of the 2019 season.

Jimenez had been asked countless times about what it would be like to play in the park he long assumed would be the one where he played his big league games. And he expressed excitement, though committed to saying it would be like any other game.

It wasn't.

Jimenez had a disappointing outcome in his first at-bat of the evening, ending a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first inning with a double play. He singled and walked in later plate appearances, but nothing was anywhere near as dramatic as his trip to the plate in the ninth. He hit Strop's pitch so hard it sounded like he broke his bat. The ball still ended up in the left-field bleachers.

One ninth-inning blast in June 2019 won't rip the rebuilding White Sox contention window open immediately, but what an image of rebuilding progress it was, with Jimenez, the middle-of-the-order centerpiece for the next decade, blasting a game-winner against the Crosstown-rival Cubs.

Jimenez's permanent smile was indeed present as he rounded the bases, made even bigger by his Tuesday night heroics. The White Sox are hoping they were the first of many.

 

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Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

Ozzie Guillén and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on a special Crosstown edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: