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Fluky pen? Vets to the rescue!

With the additions of Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colomé, White Sox look to ‘shorten games’ in 2019

MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners
Locking down is looking up: As an ace setup man or closer, Colomé will be a key ‘game shortener’ in 2019.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While the Chicago White Sox organization and their rebuilding efforts took steps in the right direction during the 2018 season, they still saw a bevy of “fluky baseball” things happen to their roster. It happens to everyone, every season. One of those fluky things, was the strength of their bullpen.

The Sox were quick to address the issue of a well-worn bullpen though, doing a bit of shuffling and giving the back end a facelift early in the offseason when they acquired both Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colomé.

”The additions of guys like Colomé and Herrera we think are going to help us shorten games,” manager Rick Renteria told the media at SoxFest on Friday afternoon. “[They] help us protect some of our young starters better [and] put us in a better position to win more ballgames.”

During the 2018 season, everyone from Hector Santiago to Aaron Bummer stepped up to eat up innings when young starters simply weren’t getting the outs they needed to.

But quickly, Sox games became tedious to watch as the season went on. Take a look at the average length of a Sox game in 2018, and note that most of the teams with longer running games were either playoff teams or basement dwellers.

The problem was a convergence of injuries and young starting pitchers unable to get deep enough into games each night, thus taxing an already loose-fitting bullpen. Veteran starter James Shields stepped up to pitch 204 innings, the most he’d pitched since 2014, but he was only one guy.

With Sox bullpen mainstay Nate Jones hopefully healthy and back in the mix for 2019, the Sox seem to have bolstered their bullpen with two new arms that not only have had major success over the length of their careers, but are both established veterans. That not only takes the pressure off young arms to pitch outside their limitations, whatever those may be at their current stage of big league development, but is also a valuable asset off the field.

”With Colomé, who’s experienced working in the back end of ball games, Herrera, and hopefully a healthy Jones comes in,” Renteria says, “[They’re] able to help us [with] those back end innings along with obviously some of the young men that you’ve seen last year developing. They hopefully give us foothold of being to close out some ballgames with some experience.”

Herrera, who was traded to the Washington Nationals in June, had previously spent eight seasons with the division rival Kansas City Royals. Last year, held an ERA of just 2.44 to go along with a 3.95 FIP before his season would end prematurely to a foot injury.

”It was up there [on the list],” general manager Rick Hahn says of acquiring Herrera. “We knew there were some pretty talented relievers out there, and Herrera was very much a part of that first group. We didn’t know initially in the offseason that Colomé was going to be available, so it became apparent that that was someone we wanted to move on pretty quickly.”

Colomé, who comes somewhat under the radar after spending six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and eventually ending last season with the Seattle Mariners, kept up a 3.04 ERA with a nearly identical FIP of 3.44. He’s an established closer, which gives the White Sox flexibility with the role.

At this juncture of their careers and development, it should be easy for starters such as Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Carlos Rodón to put up more quality starts, giving a bullpen that often saw back-to-back nights a bit of a rest.

With fresh, established relievers being thrown into the mix, expect the whole pitching staff to be a bit more relaxed in the 2019 season.