Crain looks to have inside track on closer role

DALLAS – With Sergio Santos now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Jesse Crain has emerged as the leading candidate to take over the White Sox’s closer role.

Asked Tuesday if Chris Sale would be considered to close out victories, manager Robin Ventura said the young left-hander will be given every opportunity to earn his way on the starting rotation.

In trading Santos to the Blue Jays for minor-league starting pitcher Nestor Molina, general manager Kenny Williams said the club was dealing from an area of strength.

That might be, but the White Sox aren’t necessarily swimming in closer candidates, especially when taking Sale out of the mix.

Matt Thornton got the job initially last season and struggled, although he wasn’t helped by some horrible defense and a startling number of broken-bat bloop hits. Crain was brilliant in a set-up role early, but wasn’t as effective down the stretch.

Addison Reed was impressive after being recalled late in the season, but he has just two seasons of professional experience and is conserved more of the closer for the future instead of the present.

Reed, though, appears to be in the same shows Santos was in last season. When the 2011 season started, Santos was asked to show what he could do in middle relief and his success propelled him to the closer role by May.

Reed is expected to start the 2012 season in the bullpen knowing that some impressive outings could quickly lead to more responsibility.

“You're looking at some young kids that will be able to have a shot to do it and try and make it work,” Ventura said when specifically asked about Reed. “ You feel like you have the talent there to do it and fill that slot.”

But even before spring training begins, Crain looks like the best bet to wind up with the closer’s job, although Thornton will be given every opportunity to earn back that role provided he isn’t traded as well this winter.

“I still think he's a great pitcher and he'll be able to handle that,” Ventura said. “Year to year to me isn't what they did last year, is really last year. So I'm going to give them a clean slate to be able to obviously show that they can handle different things and have another shot at it.”