White Sox bullpen depth could be tested early

Matt Lindstrom will have to wait to get his first game photo from this season. - USA TODAY Sports

All four closer candidates face adversity early on in spring training

Nate Jones brought a strained glute muscle into camp. Matt Lindstrom has a strained oblique. Ronald Belisario still has visa issues. Daniel Webb had a death in the family.

At this rate, the only way to win the White Sox closer job is to not be connected to it whatsoever.

Jones arrived expecting to be trailing the rest of the group in terms of readiness, but he threw two sets of 15 pitches off a mound with no restrictions on Sunday. He said he expects to be back at it in a few days, perhaps in a game.

While he's more than a week behind, his moneymaker may not cost him a shot at making closer money, because his competitors haven't found a groove yet, either.

A strained left oblique forced Lindstrom to be scratched from Friday's game. He's throwing a bullpen session today, he says he hopes it will be his only one.

Things could be better for the incumbent options, but at least they're around Camelback Ranch. Webb left Arizona on Friday to attend to matters back home, and Robin Ventura said the Sox are giving him the time he needs.

That's more than Ventura will say about Belisario by now. Rick Hahn has downplayed his frustration to the public, but that was several days ago. It's a situation that's far from optimal, given his track record. When you're Belisario's employer, you probably want a firm idea of his whereabouts.

Add it all up, and suddenly the eleventh-hour signing of Mitchell Boggs looks a little more essential. Not that anybody can expect that much from a $1.1 million investment after the year he had, but if Belisario turns out to be more trouble than he's worth, then Boggs becomes the lone outside help from the right side.

It also puts Jake Petricka on alert. He had an inside track on one of two open bullpen spots, with Webb ahead of him in line. Then Boggs came from nowhere to take one of the musical chairs, and Petricka found himself on the outside looking in. That might not be the case on Opening Day if one (or multiple) relievers ahead of him can't get on schedule.

The March 2013 version of Jesse Crain says all this talk is premature. He battled an oblique problem and threw garbage for almost the entire spring. Then he threw one excellent exhibition game, declared himself ready to go, and ended up being the American League's best reliever for the first three months.

The Cactus League schedule offers enough opportunities to work out the kinks, even if there's a delay. Still, it's rare to have a cluster of absences concentrated in one area of the roster, and it just happens to be an area that was already in turmoil by design. Spring training is always too long except when it isn't, and Ventura may need the entire preseason to get his late innings in line.

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