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5 for '15: Can the bullpen become a strength?

Plenty went wrong for the 2014 Chicago White Sox, but nowhere were their struggles more evident than in the bullpen.

Whatever could go wrong actually did from early injuries to Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom to struggles galore, much of it having to do with pitchers stepping into roles that weren't on their resume.

In that sense, the 2015 version of the bullpen can't be worse, can it?

So pronounced were the bullpen's issues, that the White Sox went out of character and spent big on a closer in David Robertson, who is set to pull in $46 million over the next four years. At least one problem from 2014 -- the lack of an obvious closer -- is now solved.

"I'm hoping to step in and be that guy that they need that is dependable in the bullpen," Robertson said. "We do have high expectations. I'm excited about it. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we had a chance to win."

To handle another second glaring issue -- the lack of a quality left-hander -- the White Sox went out early in the offseason and spent $15 million for three years on Zach Duke. They didn't stop there, trading Andre Rienzo to the Miami Marlins in exchange for lefty Dan Jennings.

Ronald Belisario, whose issues were representative of the bullpen's struggles, was set free in December when the club declined to tender the arbitration-eligible pitcher a contract. That was viewed as addition by subtraction.

The latest addition came last week when Kyle Drabek was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. He has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries and was switched to a reliever last season, but the White Sox see him as a fit.

"So some of these guys who don't quite get as much attention when they're acquired, we want to see what we can get out of them, and they're here because our scouts saw something in them and hopefully we can develop them into quality options over the course of the year," general manager Rick Hahn said at the start of the spring. "But I don't think, no matter what the roster looks like, that I'm ever going to sit here and tell you, ‘Yeah, we're good from a pitching depth standpoint.' There's just too much that can happen and the need is always existent."

Already, though, there are some cracks in the foundation of the rebuilt bullpen. Robertson is moving past a bout with a sore arm, but Jake Petricka is headed to the disabled list at the start of the season with his own arm soreness. Jones is out at least until July after Tommy John surgery last year.

Until Petricka is back and completely healthy, the White Sox might try different options in the setup role, not the ideal way to debut a new crop of relievers.

With a solid upper part of the rotation and a lineup that is balanced between the speed of Adam Eaton and Micah Johnson, with the power of Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche and Avisail Garcia, a weak bullpen could undermine an improved offense.

Ultimately, though, fixing a bullpen, especially in spots other than closer, is one of the easier tasks at the always hectic trade deadline. And there is also the option of bringing top prospect Carlos Rodon into the fold later in the year as a reliever.

Options will exist if the bullpen struggles, which is probably why the setup role wasn't addressed like other areas of the roster were.

"So far everybody looks great," Robertson said. "You can't go by numbers out there in the games, it just depends on how it ends up shaking out. The setup role has kind of evolved now and is a staple of bullpens, and I'm sure just like that it will evolve on this team, even if at times multiple guys take that inning."

As long as White Sox relievers can avoid injury, they can work on their own evolution from a 2014 weakness to a 2015 potential strength.