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White Sox bullpen descends into meritocracy

Robin Ventura will be making up the ninth inning as he goes along for the foreseeable future

Tom Szczerbowski

Jake Petricka picked up the save in Ronald Belisario's stead on Saturday. On Sunday, he warmed up and was ready to enter the game in the ninth inning ... only to see Zach Putnam record a four-out save instead.

That's pretty much how it's going to be for a while, because having four right-handed relievers with similar profiles will make it very difficult to find the hot hand.

"We don’t really have [a closer],’’ Ventura said on the day that officially opened the second half of the season. "We’re going to use whoever we need to use depending on the situation, matchups, usage. We’re going to use what fits best in that spot.’’

Ventura said things could change with a new addition or the emergence of a current reliever, but, for now, anybody can be called on in the ninth inning.

"It’s not ideal,’’ Ventura said.

The good news: Eric Surkamp succeeded in both high-leverage situations Ventura threw him into -- and he faced Adam Lind both times. On Friday, he induced a perfect double-play ball (which Conor Gillaspie booted). On Saturday, he struck out Lind with an outstanding sequence to get the game to Putnam.

It's a sign of the times that a guy is used in the first three games after getting called up from Charlotte, but the members of the White Sox bullpen should take notice. The absence of any kind of hierarchy provides a great opportunity to establish (or re-establish) their own society, provided they stop killing each other first. The Surkamp switch could be the sorely needed first step. One batter a game won't be enough to turn the tides for the relief corps, but having a situation lefty who doesn't create situations for other relievers would represent a measurable improvement.


While Sox fans had no problem seeing Surkamp replace Scott Downs, his dismissal did register an impact in the clubhouse:

Colleen Kane talked to Tyler Flowers about it:

"(Downs was) a veteran guy, a leader, ... a guy I think a lot of people could turn to, especially with some of the younger guys in the bullpen," Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said. "He's the kind of guy you could ask questions, and he wouldn't make a fool out of you if they were stupid questions. And he liked to have a good time. He was a good part of what we have going on as far as the team chemistry, the shenanigans we get into in the clubhouse. That's a tough one, but we wish him the best, and I know Surkamp has been doing well, so I'm sure he's excited for his opportunity."

I'm bringing this up for posterity, because this is the kind of reaction you'd expect for a well-regarded teammate who couldn't quite cut it. So when there's relative indifference toward Jeff Keppinger's DFA, or Will Ohman's a couple years before, that seems to speak for itself.

Keppinger, in case you missed it, is spending his days redefining irony.