Renteria leaning toward mix-and-match in White Sox’ bullpen
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PEORIA, Ariz. — Manager Rick Renteria wasn’t about to name a closer with less than three weeks to go before opening day, and why should he?
He doesn’t have an obvious lockdown choice for the role, which had been manned by David Robertson — whom the White Sox signed for $46 million and four years with postseason dreams in mind — the last 2½ seasons.
In rebuilding times, the Sox’ urgency isn’t quite the same with right-handers Joakim Soria, 33, and Nate Jones, 32, profiling best to rack up the most saves in 2018.
Soria, acquired from the Royals in a three-team trade in January and earning a $9 million salary ($8 million from the Sox), has 204 career saves but hasn’t closed since 2015. Jones could close games but has three career saves and is coming off elbow surgery. Juan Minaya had nine saves last season but a 4.53 ERA, his usage by default after the Sox emptied their bullpen with midseason trades of Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and more.
So it looks like Renteria will mix and match in 2018 and, if need be, go with his best if the game’s on the line in the seventh or eighth inning rather than save a hot hand for the ninth.
“I don’t want to say committee; I want to make sure I have a couple of guys I can rely on,’’ Renteria said. “With Nate and Joakim in here having done that, we’re hoping they can fill that role.’’
Soria, after a horrible first outing, had his second consecutive good one Friday against the Padres, allowing one single and getting three ground-ball outs.
Jones, who has a wipeout slider to go with mid-to-upper-90s heat (as well as a changeup), has struck out five in three scoreless one-inning appearances
“Nate is coming back healthy and capable of doing a lot of different things,’’ Renteria said. “So our flexibility has improved.
“We have Minaya, [Gregory] Infante, even [Danny] Farquhar. We have a balance of guys and flexibility in that role. Multiple guys are capable in fireman-type situations, putting out a difficult moment.’’
Jones has prototype closer stuff, but Renteria isn’t pegging him for the ninth inning. If Mike Trout is coming up in the eighth in a close game, Renteria might go to Jones.
“If I think Nate is the hottest piece I have to put out a fire in that situation, it might be Nate,’’ Renteria said. “Just depends on the situation and matchup.’’
NOTE: The Sox made seven roster moves, releasing outfielder Willy Garcia, optioning left-hander Jace Fry to Class AAA Charlotte and reassigning five others to minor-league camp, including right-hander Alec Hansen, their No. 3-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America.
Also reassigned in the club’s second round of roster cuts: left-handers Brian Clark and T.J. House and right-handers Tyler Danish and Jordan Stephens.
Garcia, who played in 44 games last season, did not play this spring because of a sore wrist. He was best remembered for starting in an all-Garcia outfield with Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia and for being in a violent collision in right field with second baseman Yoan Moncada in which he suffered a concussion and fractured jaw.
The Sox have 53 players in major-league camp.
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