Tough breaks haunt 2010 bullpen

After Monday's look back at the White Sox’s starting pitching and a look ahead to 2011, here is a view of the bullpen.


Look back at 2010: It’s completely unfair, of course, to blame the White Sox’s late-season collapse on the bullpen, but the relievers had some prominent roles. With the White Sox on a win streak entering the second half, Bobby Jenks blew a save at Minnesota. The White Sox and Twins seemed to move in opposite directions from that point. Another key moment was Jim Thome’s monster game-winning homer off Matt Thornton. Thornton, Jenks and J.J. Putz all had second-half disabled list stints. Chris Sale was impressive, but he figures to be leaving for the starting ranks.

Look ahead to 2011: Lots of decisions to be made here, especially with the all-important back-end of the bullpen. Jenks is expected to be non-tendered since both manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams seemed disappointed in the big right-hander by season’s end. Putz, a free-agent, figures to get a raise on the $3 million he made in 2010, but with whom? If he returns at a higher price, he could be asked to close. Sergio Santos showed promise and could be a future closer in the making. Williams’ first act upon returning from a brief respite to catch his breath could be to exercise Thornton’s $3 million option for 2011.

Key stat: The bullpen averaged a White Sox-record 9.05 strikeouts per nine innings, breaking the old record of 8.34 in 2009. Its 444 strikeouts also were a franchise record. It also had seven blown saves in the second half, compared to six in the first half.

Quote: “It’s one of those things where you have a lot of great arms out there and [there are] a lot of teams where these guys would be closers. It’s [also] one of those things where you hit a rough patch and get exposed a little bit.” -- Thornton

Wednesday: Catcher.