CLEVELAND -- Perhaps his new bullpen feels different for Robin Ventura because it hasn’t had his stomach in knots.
Last year’s relievers often had Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper feeling queasy as they tried to determine who could get the job done. Though it’s early, the White Sox manager already likes the weapons he has at the back end of his bullpen.
Led by closer David Robertson and setup man Zach Duke, the White Sox feel better prepared for late-game situations and they’re still not at full strength.
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“Every time you turn around and your roster changes, it changes the dynamic of your team and having guys in the bullpen like that, there’s just a different vibe to it,” Ventura said.
The vibe had to be changed if the White Sox had any hope of turning it around this season. Last year’s bullpen blew 21 of 57 save opportunities. To remedy the situation, Duke and Robertson received $61 million worth of contracts this offseason. The White Sox also traded for left-hander Dan Jennings in December, sending Andre Rienzo to the Miami Marlins.
The new-look ‘pen had its strongest showing to date in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians when Jennings, Duke and Robertson struck out eight in three scoreless innings. Robertson earned his second save of the season.
“We’ve got a good thing going, for sure,” Duke said. “We’re ready to take the ball and get the job done.”
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Catcher Tyler Flowers is impressed with the wide-ranging repertoires of the team’s new additions. Jennings is a southpaw with a fastball/slider combo. Duke has two different arm slots from which to work and Robertson features a 94-mph fastball and a hard-breaking curveball.
“We’re putting them in good situations getting some runs across, getting us the lead and letting those guys prepare and come in ready to execute and they’ve been doing that,” Flowers said. “They’ve been doing a good job.”
Reinforcements could be on the way soon, too.
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If he can replicate last season’s performance, right-hander Jake Petricka (2.96 ERA in 2014) would be a steady addition. Petricka, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a sore forearm, came out of Monday’s 25-pitch simulate game in good shape and Ventura hopes he could return by this weekend.
Down the road, the White Sox hope for contributions from Nate Jones, who can’t come off the 60-day DL until June 4, and Jesse Crain, who is still in extended spring training.
But Ventura feels like he and Cooper can make some sense of what they already have in hand.
“Just the feeling of those guys coming out there, I think Jennings and Duke and Robertson is a nice combination right now,” Ventura said. “You have some veteran guys with Duke and Robertson, you’re seeing a different feeling just because of their experience and their talent.”