Today, the White Sox confirmed that SS Eduardo Escobar claimed the final bench spot, after demoting INF Rey Olmedo. RHP Zach Stewart saw off the challenge of RHP Dylan Axelrod to secure the long reliever/spot starter role out of the bullpen. And, in somewhat of a surprise, RHP Nathan Jones won the final bullpen spot.
Jones, who came into spring training as a very dark horse candidate for the bullpen, took advantage of what was an open competition for multiple bullpen spots with a good spring: 10.2 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 17 K. Jones, a 5th round pick in 2007 out of Northern Kentucky University, has always had an excellent arm but throwing strikes was the issue. While 8 BB in 10.2 IP doesn't really seem to suggest a resolution of that issue, the White Sox obviously feel his upside is greater than the other options. Jones throws across his body, which results in an inconsistent delivery, and I'm not sure that can be corrected to the point where his control is acceptable at the major league level.Stewart, acquired last season from Toronto in the Edwin Jackson trade, was essentially competing with Axelrod for one spot. The 25 year old righty bested his competition with a good spring - 19.1 IP, 20 H, 4 BB, 9 K - compared to Axelrod's 19.2 IP, 29 H, 7 BB, 13 K. Axelrod will report to Triple-A Charlotte, where the 26 year old will lead the Knights' starting rotation.
As previously discussed, Escobar had had an excellent spring both offensively and defensively and will play the role of utility infielder and pinch runner.
To pare down their opening day roster to 25 men, the White Sox optioned Axelrod to Class AAA Charlotte and reassigned RHP Brian Bruney, C Hector Gimenez, Olmedo, LHP Leyson Septimo and LHP Eric Stults to minor-league camp.
The opening day roster will include nine homegrown players, the most since 2003. The White Sox will carry: