CHICAGO -- If there is one thing Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper won’t stress about, it’s finding a new closer.
But if there is one thing the White Sox have shown they can do, it’s develop closers. Over the past decade they have made the transition from Bobby Jenks to Sergio Santos to Reed, developing each when it seemed Chicago had no options.
Now comes another chance to find somebody for the role, and Cooper is more than ready for the challenge.
“We’re good,” Cooper said of the organization’s ability to develop closers. “We take pride in our jobs. I don’t like to say check the book, but we’ve been pretty good.”
If that sounds like a bold statement, Cooper stressed that he is only part of a chain of people who are key to the process.
“Believe me, it’s a group thing,” Cooper said. “It’s scouts getting the players, it’s our minor league people putting them together and it’s like a relay race. I get the baton and try to carry it across the finish line. But it’s also [trainer] Herm Schneider and [director of conditioning] Allen Thomas.
“Some of the things I think stand out for us is that we keep people healthy compared to other teams in baseball. That’s certainly a multi-pronged thing that helps that, because that’s the No. 1 goal. If they are healthy then they have the chance to get their [tails] out there and do the stuff we envision them doing.”
The two most obvious closer options with spring training on the horizon are right-handers Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom. Jones’ appeal is a fastball in the high 90 mph range, while Lindstrom actually has experience in the role, saving 23 games for the Houston Astros in 2010.
Asked about the opportunity, Jones said he is just trying to put his head down and do his work.
“I haven’t heard anything at all,” he said. “I’m just going into spring training preparing myself as usual. Everybody knows right now that closer spot is open. It’s maybe a little bit more motivation trying to go after something like that. But other than that it’s a normal offseason, just getting ready to go.”
While Lindstrom knows what time in the closer’s chair feels like, he thinks Jones can catch on to the rigors of the job fairly quickly.
“I think the pressure is there's nobody behind you; you're not handing the ball off to anybody else, it's you and you're going to shut it down,” Lindstrom said. “You're going to make sure you win the game, and there is some pressure involved with that. But at the same time with Nate's stuff and my stuff, I think as long as you keep confident out there, you have the stuff to get hitters out with one pitch.”
Cooper insists he has no preconceived notions about who should have the job on Opening Day.
“Here’s where I’m at in my mind at least: I’m hoping like hell that we’re in a position that the closer role is really, really important,” Cooper said. “That means we have the lead, and if you have the lead that means you’re playing some pretty damn good ball in one way, shape, or form from the first to the eighth [innings]. That means we’re catching it, we’re hitting it and we’re scoring at least one more run than the opponent. That’s what I want. I think we all want that.”