White Sox now focus on bullpen

Chris Sale will prepare to start during the offseason, according to Ken Williams. Andrew Weber/US Presswire

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Paul Konerko signing Wednesday took such a toll on the budget, not to mention general manager Kenny Williams, that the bullpen is going to have to wait.

After non-tendering closer Bobby Jenks and losing main setup man J.J. Putz to free agency this month, relief help is the White Sox's next order of business. But first, there will be a cooling off period.

"We have to go into a holding pattern right now just for a minute and try to be as creative as possible on the trade front," Williams said after the team announced the Konerko deal. "The free agent front is a little expensive for us right now so we have to try another way. That's all right. We've done it before."

Multiple reports connected free agent reliever Kerry Wood to the White Sox on Tuesday, right around the time the Konerko negotiations hit a snag. Now the White Sox will reassess their assets and who they would like to pursue.

One key component to their decision-making process is the presence of left-hander Chris Sale. He showed late in the season that he has the stuff to be a quality reliever, but he also could be needed to start if Jake Peavy isn't fully recovered from surgery to repair a muscle beneath his right shoulder.

"[Sale] will prepare this offseason to start, because we drafted him to start," Williams said. "We want him to stay on his same regimen he's used to, so he comes in the same kind of condition and he's the same guy you guys saw the last time you saw him pitch. And then we will go from there."

Going from there not only means he could slide into the bullpen when Peavy is ready, but he eventually could settle into the closer's role. There is also the possibility of bringing in veteran starting candidates to spring training on minor-league deals. If one of them could earn the No. 5 rotation spot, until Peavy returns, Sale can start the season in the bullpen.

"It's a little bit of bob and weaving, but there will be clarity soon," Williams said. "The fortunate thing is it's two relief spots and really we can close with either Sale or [left-hander Matt] Thornton. We are not looking for a closer. It's just getting to the closer."

Despite having the two lefties in Sale and Thornton, the White Sox are expected to pursue another reliever who can bring it from the left side. Call it the Minnesota Twins factor.

"We'll take a look at a third left-hander, a situational guy, somebody who can get [Twins lefties Justin] Morneau and [Joe] Mauer out," Williams said. "Then another right-hander. It will come together. We just have to make sure it's the right fit, the right pieces. But we are little bit limited right now."