GLENDALE, Ariz. — Right-hander Nate Jones has worked as a seventh- and eighth-inning man most of his career, but he knows there’s something about the ninth inning that’s different.
Those last three outs with the game on the line in win, lose or draw-and-go-extras consequences have a different air about them.
But only if you let them, Jones said.
“The opportunities I’ve had with it, it can have a different feel if you kind of buy into that,’’ Jones said. “It’s still getting three outs, and you’re trying to execute your pitches, which you should be doing in any situation.’’
White Sox manager Rick Renteria has not named a closer, and he might not before opening day Thursday, but if the Sox lead the Royals by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Kansas City, expect to see No. 65 trotting in from the bullpen. Renteria also has new right-hander Joakim Soria, who has 204 career saves but only two since 2015, and Juan Minaya, who saved nine of 10 opportunities down the stretch as a rookie last season after general manager Rick Hahn traded away closer David Robertson and almost every other bullpen piece for prospects.
Renteria has hinted at mixing and matching at the end of games and perhaps going with Jones in the eighth inning if that’s where the game is on the line.
But Jones is the guy the Sox view as their best. The only thing they needed to see to confirm it was whether Jones was the same guy coming off surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right arm last July. And with seven scoreless spring-training appearances, upper-90s velocity and a good slider making an “I’m back” statement, that appears to be the case.
“It’s been good to see the reaction hitters are having to my ball,’’ Jones said. “That’s always a confidence-booster.’’
Jones has three career saves, so he knows just a little about the role.
“If you buy into ‘I have to do more, I have to do more,’ you can create that pressure in the ninth,’’ he said, “instead of going out and attacking the zone and getting ahead and trying to get guys out early. The best guys view it as another inning — ‘I have to get three outs.’ ’’
Anderson, Delmonico scratched
Renteria characterized the left-shoulder issue for shortstop Tim Anderson and left fielder Nicky Delmonico’s hamstring injury as very minor. Anderson dinged his shoulder slightly diving for a ball Friday, Renteria said. Both were scratched from the lineup.
Jose Abreu (tight hamstring) returned to the lineup at first base after missing four days.
Catcher Kevan Smith (ankle sprain) is still recovering, although his injury was not a factor in Omar Narvaez winning the job as backup catcher.
Nine Sox made their first opening-day roster: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer, Aaron Bummer, Minaya, Gregory Infante, Yoan Moncada, Delmonico and Adam Engel. “Carson said it yesterday, it’s a dream come true,” Bummer said.
This and that
Lucas Giolito worked 2‰ innings in a minor-league game, allowing one run.
† Right-hander Chris Volstad, who will begin the season with Class AAA Charlotte, started and pitched three scoreless innings in the Sox’ 16-1 victory Sunday against the Brewers. Volstad did not allow a run in eight appearances covering 14 innings.
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