Jake Petricka became the White Sox’ primary closer down the stretch of his first season and finished with a 2.96 ERA and 14 saves. Primarily a sinker-changeup pitcher, who, by the time September rolled around had almost completely abandoned his slider, Petricka will work this spring on making the slider a usable pitch.
Knowing he’ll have something more than pitches that run down and in to right-handers should make the 26-year-old right-hander tougher to hit.
“A little more of a breaking ball right to left,’’ he said. “There is definitely potential there. My problem is trying to make it too good. It doesn’t need to be too good, it just needs to move and it’s the trust factor. Who knows if it will go well in the spring.’’
Petricka called his first season “a big confidence builder” and, while he was comfortable closing, said he doesn’t mind sliding down to a seventh and eighth inning role with free agent closer David Robertson signed to a $46 million, four-year deal. Petricka’s stuff probably profiles better for that role, anyway, while the experience pitching in high-leverage situations should pay dividends this season.
“It’s good,” he said of his new role and the new look of the bullpen that took its lumps last season.
In addition to Robertson, the Sox have also added lefties Zach Duke and Dan Jennings.
Prized prospect: Where No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon will be on Opening Day is anyone’s guess. The possibilities: At AAA Charlotte in the starting rotation, in the Sox bullpen, or in the Sox rotation. General manager Rick Hahn and pitching coach Don Cooper are very comfortable with John Danks and Hector Noesi – who is something of a pet project of Cooper’s – as the fourth and fifth starters. Plus, the Sox are high enough on minor league right-handers Frankie Montas and Chris Beck to consider them as quality rotation insurance, so they are in no rush to rush Rodon.
“I’m willing to do whatever,” Rodon said. “They tell me what to do, I show up and I pitch. That’s the way I look at it.”
Rodon’s slider was considered the best pitch in the draft, and the Sox were pleasantly surprised by his changeup in his first run through the minors last summer.
Garcia lightens up: Right fielder Avisail Garcia wouldn’t give the exact number but hinted he’s around 10-15 pounds lighter. Garcia got bigger after he came back from his shoulder surgery last year and was a step slower tracking down balls in the gap and on the bases.
“In spring training it seemed that some of those balls he was beating out it didn’t see that he ever showed you won of those,” Hahn said. “I give him credit. He said this is what he said he would come back like and it sure looks like he kept to it.”
Garcia, 23, was close to 270 pounds last year.
“I’ve been working really hard at the gym,’’ said Garcia, who also played winter ball in Venezuela. “I feel really good.”
The quote: Former Cub Jeff Samardzija at fan Q and A, when asked why Sox fans are better than Cubs fans: “Well, they actually pay attention to games right?”