Relievers need to make case for themselves

CHICAGO – After nearly five months of a trying ordeal, things might only be getting tougher for the Chicago White Sox’s bullpen.

The group is toward the bottom of the American League in ERA (4.45) and batting average against (.259), and manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday that anybody who wants to be considered for a relief role next season had better step up now.

“You’re always making a case for yourself if you’re on the field and the bullpen is no different,” Ventura said, when asked if relievers still have time to prove themselves, or if the club knows all it needs to know about individual pitchers.

“We’ve gone over the bullpen, when a guy comes in, it’s pass or fail when you go out there. It’s very much of a focal point. When guys go out there you can either do the job and get cheered or don’t do the job and probably got booed. It’s a ruthless position out there.”

Already expected to be a tough season for a bullpen that didn’t have a clear-cut closer when Addison Reed was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third baseman Matt Davidson, injuries to guys like Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones helped lead to one nightmare after another.

The White Sox’s 19 blown saves are second only the Houston Astros’ 22 and their save percentage of 59 percent is also second worst to the Astros’ 50-percent mark.

There have been bright spots, like the emergence of Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam, but otherwise things have been a struggle. The White Sox took a $3 million gamble on Ronald Belisario that hasn’t paid off, and they have already cut loose Scott Downs, who made $4 million when adding in the $250,000 buyout of his 2015 club option.

Jones not only opened the season on the disabled list with a back issue, but then blew out his elbow while on the comeback trail and likely won’t be back at the start of the 2015 season. The White Sox have even operated most of the last month without a left-handed reliever.

“For those guys, you need to continue to get situations and experiences to grow,” Ventura said. “We are young out there and you have to be able to learn from those and keep going.”

General manager Rick Hahn has already targeted the bullpen as a key area to improve this offseason.

“The fact of the matter is, we didn't get everything done last offseason as we wanted to do,” Hahn said Tuesday. “We look forward to the chance coming up in the coming weeks, where we're able to get a little more aggressive in pursuing some answers out there.”