Ozzie Guillen praises struggling bullpen

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen believes in his bullpen so much so that he says it's the best in the American League.

If it's true, White Sox relievers sure haven't proved it yet. After blowing three games already this season -- most recently Wednesday's 7-4 extra-inning loss to the Oakland Athletics -- Guillen is fed up with talking about it.

So what is he going to do?

"If we're going to make a soap opera of this [story], just let me know," Guillen said. "If the fans want to know, I don't know. If the media wants to know, I don't know. The pitchers over there, if they want to know, I don't know. Whoever is there in the ninth [inning] is the one I decide is going to be the guy to close the ninth."

The White Sox could be 10-2 rather than 7-5, a fact of which Guillen is acutely aware.

After telling reporters in his office before the game that he didn't want to talk about the bullpen, Guillen spoke for more than four minutes on the subject.

"This is [expletive]," Guillen said. "I don't have [New York Yankees closer] Mariano Rivera. Whoever is out there in the ninth will pitch in the ninth."

Guillen said despite his relievers' early struggles, he's confident they're ready to pitch in the ninth.

"I don't see better arms than those guys' in the American League," Guillen said. "Name it. Who has a better arm than [Jesse] Crain, [Sergio] Santos, [Chris] Sale and [Matt] Thornton? We have a great bullpen. A great bullpen. They're not doing what they're supposed to do. We all know that. Meanwhile, I have a lot of faith in the bullpen. It's been 12 games ... I'm happy where we are."

Guillen said it's "unbelievable" that fans are panicking this early in the season, but he assured reporters that his pitching staff isn't panicking.

Among the relievers who aren't panicking is Sergio Santos, who Guillen has said will be among the pitchers he looks to in the ninth to close out games. Santos said closing is something he's always wanted to do, and he's ready for the increased pressure if that moment comes.

"I welcome the challenge," Santos said. "Like I've said before, if that's thrown upon me, then I'll do it. If it's not, then I'll stay in the same role I've been, pitching the seventh and eighth inning."

Santos stopped short of making any claims that the job would inevitably be his. His name was brought up as a possibility at closer during spring training, but he ultimately lost the job to Thornton.

"You want to be the best at what you do," Santos said. "Just to be mentioned [as a possible closer] was an honor, was a privilege. Like I said before, Thornton earned that right to become closer out of the gate ... He's still our guy until Ozzie or whoever makes the decision. We're still going to keep it that way, and I'll still get loose in the seventh/eighth inning and whenever they call me, I'll go."

Guillen has said all along that whoever pitches in the ninth inning has to be mentally prepared for the pressure that comes with the job.

"I've always gone with the belief that pressure is fear of failure," Santos said. "And if you're afraid to fail, you're going to feel the pressure. That's what we work hard for. That's what we prepare for."

Guillen had a message to fans who don't like the relievers he chooses to put in the game.

"If I bring in somebody they don't like, turn around," he said. "Walk around the concourse ... buy some dinner. Take the kids to the kid tent to play. Boo me. They have a lot of stuff to do."

After storming away from reporters after Wednesday's loss, which came after Sale gave up three earned runs in the ninth, allowing the A's to tie the game, Guillen said he hadn't fully calmed down -- even after spending his off day at his home in Miami.

"If you're manager of this ballclub and you're not upset," he said, "then you don't have blood going through your veins."

Kevin Allen is a special contributor for ESPNChicago.com.