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Sports Saturday

Bullpen a bright, light spot for White Sox

“You have to find something to keep yourself sane sitting down there for so long in your own little box,” left-hander Aaron Bummer said.

Alex Colome (right) has been one of the most efficient closers in baseball this season. (AP)
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Baseball is a game of down time. There’s lots of standing around, sitting down and waiting, and none more than in bullpens, where relief pitchers are the last ones to get in the game.

To pass the time, White Sox relievers tell stories, flick sunflower seeds – many of them at each other – and talk baseball.

“You have to find something to keep yourself sane sitting down there for so long in your own little box,” left-hander Aaron Bummer said.

“You’re down there watching the game and you can let your mind wander,” right-hander Evan Marshall said. “It always ends up being story time at some point.”

Thank goodness football season is near.

“Right now is a good time of the year because we have our Fantasy Football draft coming up,” lefty Jace Fry said.

Manager Rick Renteria will be happy to know it’s not all fun, flicking and fantasies down there, though.

“We’re paying attention to the game,” Fry said. “We’re watching what the umpire is calling, we’re going over video, especially with new [opposing hitters] coming up. But a lot of nonsense, honestly. We’re constantly joking around about something, keeping it loose.”

If one pitcher has success, the others take note and apply it to how it could work for them, Marshall said.

Viewing from “far away and at weird angles” can be tricky but bullpens have TV screens with slight delays, so that helps.

The pen has been a bright spot for the 2019 Sox. The Sox are 41-1 when leading after six innings, 42-1 when leading after seven and 42-0 when leading after eight over their first 100 games.

“We know that top to bottom we know we can get the job done and it doesn’t matter who is out there, we can do our jobs and keep the score close and give the offense a chance,” Bummer said. “We’re feeding off each other so it’s a fun time to be down there, everybody pulling for each other. We take pride in ability to close games.”

“There’s a really good chemistry and it’s nice to have veteran guys like Kelvin [Herrera] and [closer Alex] Colome down there, to see how they go about their work,” Fry said, “because they’ve seen success and failure. They don’t get too high or too low. They know it’s a long year.”

HIDDEN FIGURES

0.49

Right-hander Ivan Nova’s ERA over his last five starts.

11.26

Average number of strikeouts per nine innings for Lucas Giolito entering his start in Anaheim late Friday, which ranked fifth in the American League and would be the second-best mark in Sox history among qualifying pitchers behind Chris Sale (11.82) in 2015.

11

Rookies in Sox history to hit 20 home runs. Eloy Jimenez joined the club Wednesday, with Jose Abreu (36 in 2014), Ron Kittle (35 in ‘83), Zeke Bonura (27 in ‘34), Daniel Palka (27 in ‘18), Matt Davidson (26 in ‘17), Josh Fields (23 in ‘07), Bill Melton (23 in ‘69), Tommie Agee (22 in ‘66), Pete Ward (22 in ‘63), Alexei Ramirez (21 in ‘08).

THAT’S WHAT HE SAID

“He’s the most exciting player I’ve seen since Ken Griffey Jr.”

Peter Gammons on 20-year-old Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., a budding superstar whom the Sox traded to the Padres for veteran right-hander James Shields in 2016.

”In the future we can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball. You look at the raw stuff we all have, it’s there.”

Lucas Giolito, on potential of White Sox rotation with Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon

DID YOU KNOW?

Right-hander Dylan Cease is the fourth Sox starter in franchise history since 1985 to throw five or more innings in each of his first seven career starts, joining Chris Sale with 22 in 2012, Rocky Biddle with 11 in 2000-01 and Joel Davis with seven in 1985. Source: STATS LLC

José Abreu is attempting to record 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI for the fifth time in six seasons with the Sox. On pace for a career-high 115 RBI, Abreu is attempting to join Dick Allen (113 in 1972) as the only players in club history to lead the American League in RBI.