GLENDALE, Ariz. — There were stretches last season when Dan Jennings was the only left-hander in the White Sox’ bullpen. This year, manager Rick Renteria will probably have three to open the season.
Luis Avilan, for one, is glad he won’t be the only one.
“I’ve been in situations where I was the only lefty in the bullpen. It’s not a fun thing, it’s not a fun time,” said Avilan, who hasn’t allowed a run this spring.
Avilan, who was acquired with right-hander Joakim Soria in a three-team offseason trade that cost the Sox minor-league infielder Jake Peter, is expected to be joined by lefties Hector Santiago and Aaron Bummer and right-handers Nate Jones, Soria, Danny Farquhar, Gregory Infante and Juan Minaya in the Sox’ pen. With Renteria targeting right-hander Carson Fulmer for the fifth spot in his starting rotation, the Sox’ opening-day pitching staff, while not announced, came into clearer focus with veteran non-roster invitee lefties Robbie Ross Jr. and Xavier Cedeno reassigned to minor-league camp.
That leaves Santiago to serve as a multiuse reliever, including long relief and possible spot-starter duty backing up an all-righty rotation of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Fulmer.
All that’s left to make it official are four more roster moves, some of which could come Saturday, Renteria said. Non-roster right-handers Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon, lefty Carlos Rodon (who will open the season on the disabled list) and three catchers are among the 29 players left in camp.
The Sox reassigned first baseman Matt Skole to the minor leagues Friday, which leaves one position-player decision between backup catchers Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith, with the left-handed-hitting Narvaez the favorite to join outfielder-infielder Leury Garcia and infielder Tyler Saladino on Renteria’s bench most nights.
For what it’s worth, Sox relievers overall have pitched well this spring. Avilan, 28, who posted a 2.93 ERA with the Dodgers last season, has led the charge as he heads into his last scheduled outing Saturday with five scoreless outings and no walks under his belt.
“My breaking ball and secondary pitches are working great,” said Avilan, adding he usually struggles during the spring.
“I’ve got to be honest, I think this is the first spring training where I’ve actually been good.’’
NOTES: Manager Rick Renteria is being cautious with star first baseman Jose Abreu, who won’t play Saturday and might get only one at-bat Sunday in the Cactus League finale.
Abreu, who left the Sox’ game against the Rangers on Tuesday with a tight left hamstring, took batting practice and worked in the field Friday but hasn’t played since Tuesday even though he said he was ready to play. Renteria agreed but sees no point in taking any chances six days before opening day.
“My abundance of caution” is how Renteria explained his thinking.
“I want to start the season with Pito Abreu, arguably one of the best hitters in the major leagues,” Renteria said. “He’s ready to go.’’
*Center fielder Adam Engel, scratched the previous days due to a stiff neck, was back in the lineup Friday.