White Sox’ Nate Jones says he can handle closer role

Written By BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter Posted: 02/26/2014, 06:16am

The White Sox have a hole at the back end of the bullpen where closer Addison Reed left a vacancy. Nate Jones seems a logical replacement, and the hard-throwing setup man is ready to compete for the job.

There’s no doubt Jones has the stuff with an upper-90s fastball and a hard slider. He’s a mild-mannered sort, but he believes he could handle the mental stress.

“I feel like I do,’’ Jones said. “You have to be mentally tough; you have to grind it out. If something happens the night before, you have to forget that pretty quickly because you will be out there the next night doing the same thing. I feel I have the capability to do that.’’

Jones is already dealing with one tough loss. His best friend on the team, Hector Santiago, was traded in the deal for center fielder Adam Eaton. And he was close with Reed (traded for Matt Davidson), too.

“That’s a tough part of the business,’’ Jones said. “[But] you have to move on.’’

Pitching coach Don Cooper has a way of molding closers.

“Listen, man, I can go back to Shingo Takatsu, [Dustin] Hermanson, Bobby [Jenks] and all the years after that [Sergio Santos, Santiago],’’ Cooper said.

“We never had, ‘Hey, we just acquired a closer.’ We always figured out who was the best guy to close.’’

Welcome back

Jenks, the 2005 ninth-inning man, was welcomed back at SoxFest with hearty applause during opening ceremonies. That year is his highlight.

“That season was a whirlwind,’’ Jenks said. “My first year up, right into the fire. It was unbelievable. It was something you dream of as a kid.’’

Things have regressed since for Jenks, 32, who’s recovering from spinal fusion surgery and said a comeback “is to be determined. The question is being healthy.’’

Jenks, who pitched for the Sox from 2005 to 2010 and one abbreviated season with the Red Sox in 2011, is back on the upswing. He said he has been clean and sober for 18 months after battling through pain-medication addiction and depression.

Hawk on Hurt

Broadcaster Ken Harrelson, who gave Frank Thomas the nickname “Big Hurt,” said there was never a doubt that Thomas would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“The one thing I’ll always remember about the Big Hurt is he played hurt,’’ Harrelson said. ‘‘And he never complained and moaned about it. . . . He was the greatest hitter this organization had, and he brought it back to prominence.’’

Abreu feeling good

Cuban free-agent slugger Jose Abreu is embracing his new lease on life in the United States and as a major-league player.

“I am born again,’’ he said.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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