White Sox

Alex Colome unsurprisingly named White Sox closer, though bullpen mysteries abound ahead of Opening Day

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USA TODAY

Alex Colome unsurprisingly named White Sox closer, though bullpen mysteries abound ahead of Opening Day

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.

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.

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.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox should be better than this

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox should be better than this

It's still April, but we all agree: the White Sox are underperforming as a team.

Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey, Vinnie Duber and Chris Kamka break down the reasons why (1:30). What's going on with Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana? (5:20)

Could Dylan Cease be the answer sooner rather than later? (10:55)

Why the White Sox should be .500 (17:15).

What's going on with Jon Jay and how his signing is backfiring so far (19:30) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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A White Sox team with raised expectations was supposed to beat the bottom of the barrel, but they haven't so far in 2019

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USA TODAY

A White Sox team with raised expectations was supposed to beat the bottom of the barrel, but they haven't so far in 2019

The White Sox might not be destined for the postseason in 2019. They might not be destined to finish .500, what with the rebuild still grinding along on the South Side.

But this team spent spring training talking about raised expectations, a logical next step for a group of young players supposed to make up part if not much of the rosters of the future that will carry expectations of a lot more success. And while the individual improvements of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and and Eloy Jimenez and Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez are more important than whatever the win-loss record ends up being, there was a realistic hope within the fan base for more wins.

In part, that was due to the competition around these White Sox. The AL Central is aggressively weak, the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers further back in their own rebuilding efforts than Rick Hahn's front office ever was and the supposed "upper echelon" of the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins anything but terrifying. Outside of the Boston Red Sox (who to this point have been atrocious in defending their World Series championship), the New York Yankees (with a ridiculous number of players on the injured list) and the Houston Astros (generally taking care of business though not in first place in the AL West), did any other American League team look unbeatable during the preseason?

And yet, 23 games into their 2019 campaign, the White Sox have been knocked around by the American League — the good, the bad and the ugly of it.

Wednesday's 4-3 defeat to clinch a series loss to the Baltimore Orioles was particularly disheartening when it comes to which teams the White Sox will be able to take advantage of this season. The Orioles lost 115 games in 2018, the worst team in baseball, and things aren't exactly looking up this time around, either. Well, they just took two of three against the White Sox, knocking the South Side starting staff around enough that Ervin Santana's 4.2 innings of work Wednesday were the most of a White Sox starter in the series. Manny Banuelos and Ivan Nova went four innings apiece in the first two contests.

The Royals and Tigers? Those two teams combined to lose 202 games last season and seemed good bets to finish with worse records than the White Sox this season. That can certainly still happen, but so far the White Sox have split six games against the Royals and dropped two of three in their first series against the Tigers last weekend.

They've split two games with the Indians. They went a gross 1-5 against two surprise division leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners. The only team the White Sox have a winning record against is the aforementioned Yankees thanks to taking two of three in The Bronx earlier this month.

A rebuilding team not expected to make the playoffs losing to a smattering of teams including two of the best in the game to this point is not surprising. No one should pretend that other teams aren't seeing the White Sox in the same light White Sox fans see the Royals and Tigers and Orioles. The White Sox lost 100 games last year, too.

But if the expectations have truly increased, if there is progress truly being made, then these are the teams the White Sox should be showing that progress against. They haven't.

Now, individually, things are a bit of a different story. This series in Baltimore featured no starting pitcher that can be considered a part of the White Sox long-term plans, and Nova and Santana turning in losing efforts against the Orioles, no matter how frustrating, doesn't really have negative consequences for the future. Anderson and Moncada are still batting over .300, Jose Abreu could be in the middle of an early season turnaround, and the bullpen only gave up two runs in three games despite pitching more than 12 innings. In the end, what the young guys do will be what's most important, not the White Sox record against any individual team this season.

But the frustrations can be understood — and surely they're being felt inside the White Sox clubhouse as much as they are outside it — because taking care of business against teams expected to be at the bottom of the standings was supposed to be one of the examples of progress, one of the examples of improvement. The White Sox haven't taken care of business against those teams yet this season.

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