Though Rick Renteria isn't fond of naming one, the White Sox have a closer.
Alex Colome, acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners this offseason, will be the White Sox designated closer when the season starts next week in Kansas City, Renteria shared with reporters Friday in Arizona.
Reynaldo López will start the White Sox second game of the season. Rick Renteria is willing to anoint Alex Colomé as closer, though he again mentioned Kelvin Herrera and Nate Jones in the mix— James Fegan (@JRFegan) March 22, 2019
As that tweet shows, Renteria is still very much standing by his philosophy of "having a bunch of different guys who can close out games," not a bad philosophy to have should Colome spend any time on the disabled list, struggle in a significant fashion or just get tired and become unavailable at various points throughout the 162-game season. Regardless of whether Colome is the guy or not — and he is — there will be others Renteria will deploy in save situations. That's just the nature of the game.
But Colome is a no-brainer of a choice here considering what he's done the past two seasons. In 2016, he logged 37 saves with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2017, he was baseball's saves leader, with 47 of them. He saved 11 more games with the Rays last season before getting traded to the Mariners, where he served in a setup role to last year's saves leader, Edwin Diaz.
In the last three seasons, Colome has a 2.78 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 191.1 innings, many of them high-leverage situations.
Saying Colome is the obvious choice to close is no insult to the other guys in an improved White Sox bullpen. It's a reflection of how good an addition Rick Hahn made this offseason.
Meanwhile, the rest of the bullpen is full of preseason mysteries.
Kelvin Herrera, another offseason upgrade White Sox fans are thrilled is no longer pitching out of the Kansas City Royals' bullpen, is still on the way back from an injury that ended his 2018 season in late August. Nate Jones has had himself a very rough spring (a 15.43 ERA in 4.2 Cactus League innings) and has recently described his outings as "unacceptable." While Renteria said Friday that "the next couple of days are very important" for Jones, it would be quite surprising if he wasn't on the Opening Day roster.
Renteria acknowledged Kelvin Herrera is still building up to his top velocity and that the next few days are important for Nate Jones to show improved command, but sounds like both will be in Kansas City next Thursday— James Fegan (@JRFegan) March 22, 2019
Jace Fry, another projected late-inning option for Renteria, has also had a poor spring, with eight runs allowed in eight innings. Ian Hamilton has made just one Cactus League appearance, recovering from an injury sustained during a car accident this spring. Manny Banuelos, who could be the long man out of the 'pen, has allowed eight earned runs, surrendered three home runs and issued six walks in 14 innings this spring.
Ryan Burr, though, has been a bright spot, with just three runs allowed over his seven outings.
So what will the Opening Day bullpen look like? Assuming it will contain eight pitchers, Colome, Herrera, Jones, Fry, Banuelos and Burr could account for six of them. If Hamilton is healthy, he could get another. Same for Caleb Frare, who also got his first taste of the majors at the end of last season. There are only two other potential relief pitchers currently listed on the White Sox roster: Dylan Covey and Jose Ruiz. Covey could likely only serve as a long man, and with Banuelos out of options, it's Banuelos who seems most destined for that spot after the White Sox made a trade to acquire him this winter. Ruiz could step in in the event Hamilton isn't healthy enough to make the roster out of camp or beat out one of his fellow youngsters for a more secure job.
We'll see how all that plays out. One thing you can mark down in pen: Colome is the ninth-inning man.