GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The starting pitchers are nearly stretched out and now the relievers have begun to get their sea legs, too.
For part of the spring and in the days ahead, the White Sox will have their relievers pitch multiple innings in preparation for the regular season. Pitching coach Don Cooper wants his bullpen to be prepared for any scenarios as the staff starts to take shape. So Cooper has started to stretch his guys out in the case that they don’t bring a long man with them when they head to California next week.
“We’re guarding and making sure that everybody, no matter what role they might have, is equipped down here to go up and continue wherever we’re at,” Cooper said.
While Cooper would love for the White Sox to take 13 pitchers forward, it isn’t likely to happen. Though the team opens the regular season with eight consecutive games, manager Robin Ventura said the idea of carrying 13 pitchers hasn’t gained much steam.
But with a bullpen crowded full of experienced relievers the White Sox also could very well move ahead without a true long man. The seven relievers they’d take into the season would then perhaps be counted upon to make multi-inning appearances.
Preparations for that possibility are underway as Matt Albers, Jake Petricka and Zach Duke all pitched two innings in a B game on Monday. Dan Jennings pitched 2 2/3 innings on Sunday and has pitched in multiple innings in three of six outings this spring.
“You are going to have to have guys who go extra innings,” Ventura said. “It’s not a one inning per outing venture out of the bullpen, especially the way we are set up. There will have to be guys who go multiple innings. We have guys who can do it.”
The White Sox haven’t yet had Zach Putnam make a multi-inning appearance. But the right-hander said pitching for two innings isn’t something that requires much physical preparation.
A third inning might be a different story.
“Getting up and cooling down and then getting up again is OK,” Putnam said. “But that third time for guys that are used to throwing just one inning or one and some change can be taxing on the body. It might take one or two times to get used to that.”
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Some multi-inning games could come in the week ahead. Normally, the White Sox back their starting pitchers down in their final tune-ups of the spring. Some of those additional innings could be divided up among White Sox relievers.
Cooper said he’s comfortable with using all but closer David Robertson in multi-inning appearances. But Cooper even plans to lengthen Robertson out some because he has been so efficient this spring. In his last game, Robertson needed only 13 pitches to retire the side.
If that happens again, Cooper said Robertson may head straight to the bullpen and throw another 12 pitches without a break in order to simulate a longer inning.
“We’re getting everybody ready for what we perceive that they’re going to have do during the season for us,” Cooper said. “When you see Albers, Jennings, Petricka, they’re getting their regular work in. When I set up a schedule, it’s certainly getting the starters where they gotta be, innings and pitch wise. And right after that it’s the guys we foresee them coming with us, to get their innings and pitches where they need to be.”