White Sox manager Robin Ventura pleasantly surprised by bullpen

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GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox poses during spring training photo day on March 3, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

One month into the season, manager Robin Ventura knows this about his White Sox: He has a strong starting pitching staff, a bullpen that has been relatively reliable despite its youth and an inconsistent lineup.

‘‘We have good pitching, I know that, and starting-wise, you expect a certain game,” he said. ‘‘The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise, and that’s a positive.”

The Sox’ starting corps continues to lead the American League in strikeouts, complete games and opponents’ batting average (.206). The ERA is in the top five, as well.

The bullpen’s fortunes rest in part on the development of its rookies, including closer Hector Santiago. Veterans Matt Thornton and Will Ohman have been reliable, but Jesse Crain is out with a strained oblique, leaving Santiago and three other rookies at Ventura’s call.

‘‘We’ve been streaky, but I don’t think it’s anything surprising,” Brent Lillibridge said. ‘‘We’ve stayed the course, and that comes from the top [with Ventura]. We keep grinding. We just have to start winning series again. Keep it simple. Win today and go from there.”

Pain in the neck

Paul Konerko’s performance didn’t show it, but the Sox slugger had been bothered by a stiff neck for several days. Konerko was in Sunday’s original lineup as the designated hitter but was scratched before game time.

‘‘He’s had it the last couple of days and played through it,” Ventura said. ‘‘We’re just being cautious, and we have the day off [Monday]. We’re just making sure it’s nothing that lasts longer.”

Dayan Viciedo replaced Konerko at DH with Kosuke Fukudome playing left field. Ventura also played Lillibridge at third and Eduardo Escobar at second.

Konerko leads the Sox with a .383 average and is tied for the team lead in homers with five. He’s third on the team with 15 RBI.

The Red Sox also had a pregame scratch after Kevin Youkilis reported discomfort in his lower back.

Field work

Adam Dunn already has played seven games at first base, including Sunday. Using Dunn in the field has been by design by Ventura.

‘‘It’s fun, and I think it does help, but I also think I’ve gotten into a routine DH-ing,” Dunn said.

Tribe time

The Cleveland Indians arrive for a three-game series Tuesday that begins a 15-game stretch against AL Central opponents.

The Sox swept an abbreviated two-game series at Progressive Field. It was their second series of the season.

A postponed game on April 10 will be rescheduled as part of a doubleheader May 7.

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