White Sox’ bullpen has quality at top, depth, diversity and a collective chip on its shoulder
“Everyone was hungry in the offseason to get better,” Aaron Bummer said. “And I think everybody did.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are advanced metrics that say Aaron Bummer is the White Sox’ best relief pitcher, rather than last year’s American League reliever of the year Liam Hendriks.
Debate it all you want, and label them as you will. The bottom line is both are difficult to hit against and the Sox should have one of the best lefty-righty combinations at the back end of what looks to be one of baseball’s deepest bullpens.
Bummer put his heavy sinker and slider on display for Hendriks to see after Hendriks pitched in a B game against the Dodgers on Sunday. He gained a fan.
“Watching some of the swings guys were taking off of him, it’s not the usual swings you get off a sinkerball,” Hendriks said. “You look at the guys with high-riding four-seamers, they’re the ones that generally get the late swings and get it by guys. He was doing that with his sinker today. It’s impressive what he’s been able to do with everything. He’s a groundball pitcher that can strike a bunch of guys out.”
It bodes well to have that kind of combo in the bullpen in 2021. Having right-handers Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and Michael Kopech and lefty Garrett Crochet in the pen behind the top two screams depth.
“Every spring training you come in and everybody is working on something different and you see where they’re at,” Bummer said. “Evan Marshall has come in and gotten even better. He’s executing his pitches at a higher clip than he has in the past. Guys like Garrett and Michael, they do their thing, Liam is doing his thing.
“Everyone was hungry in the offseason to get better. And I think everybody did.”
The Sox’ bullpen is loaded with power arms but different looks and repertoires.
“We’ve got a bunch of different looks between [Heuer], with his slide-step thing, long limbs and everything coming at you, and then you go to Evan Marshall, who’s going to be primarily a lot of breaking balls and mixing his fastball in there,” Hendriks said. “And then you go to Bummer, who’s a 98-mph sinker — I’m sorry, it’s a 98-mph right-handed slider.
“And then me, I’m more of the straight four-seam high trying to beat guys to a spot. You’ve got Crochet throwing 140, you’ve got Kopech, they’re going to be challenging each other the entire season for however long they’re out there, whoever throws the hardest, that’s going to be fun. It’s a bunch of different looks and it makes it easier.”
Bummer’s sinker, Hendriks said, “is too hard to hit, it’s too hard to time up and put some solid contact on it. That’s why his groundball rate is going to be in the high 70s this year.”
Bummer joked about the group finding a way to absorb Hendriks’ boisterous, full-throttle personality for 162 games.
“He’s a real fiery guy. He’s loud, in your face and he goes about his business a certain way,” Bummer said. “The way he goes about his business is a reason why he’s so good.”
That attack-mode mentality is going to rub off, Bummer said.
“And that’s a positive thing moving forward,” he said.
Hendriks and the Athletics beat the Sox in the wild-card series last year, and the Sox’ bullpen is taking something from that afterfailing in Game 3, ending the team’s season.
“It’s something that showed we have a lot of room to grow,” Bummer said. “There is a lot of talk about what this bullpen can be, but at the end of the day it’s about what the bullpen is. So to me it’s something — I wasn’t able to get through the third inning. That is a chip on my shoulder.
“With the amount of guys that worked in that game, everybody left with that chip on their shoulder, saying all right, we need to be better.”