Pitching to test Ventura's mettle

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Chris Sale won his 16th Saturday, in spite of some ninth-inning shakes from closer Addison Reed.
  • Paul Boucher
  • Chris Sale won his 16th Saturday, in spite of some ninth-inning shakes from closer Addison Reed.
The White Sox have thrived under manager Robin Ventura's no-nonsense, just-baseball approach this season. Certainly, there must have been moves beneath the calm surface—such as demands to prepare for each—but for the most part in the dugout, Ventura has just seemed to sit back and let the guys play.

Now, however, he and pitching coach Don Cooper have to steer the Sox to the playoffs by protecting their one-game lead in the American League Central over the Detroit Tigers. To do so, they're going to have to cobble together a solid pitching staff for the last three weeks of the season.

This is going to call for some managing.

The starting staff has been decimated by injuries (John Danks foremost), and the bullpen has been inconsistent of late. How Ventura and Coop handle that will dictate the Sox's fate this season.

A key indicator comes Sunday when Hector Santiago makes another start. A long time ago, Santiago began the season as the Sox closer, but was removed when he proved too shaky. He actually has the stuff of a starter, with an array of off-speed pitches including a screwball, and moving him into the rotation could pay dividends, although likely not to the extent LaMarr Hoyt enjoyed with the Sox. Santiago beat theTwins last week, and if he can win the series rubber game against Kansas City Sunday it would do the Sox a world of good, as Francisco Liriano looked crummy against the Royals on Friday.

Of course, it wasn't Liriano who lost that game; it was bullpen closer Addison Reed. Reed has looked increasingly suspect of late, and he gave up another couple of runs Saturday while earning the save in relief of Chris Sale in a 5-4 squeaker Saturday against the Royals.

Ventura already yanked Santiago when he proved at all unreliable in that essential bullpen role. How long will he stick with Reed? Of course, Reed has saved 11 of his last 12 chances, even if a few have been white-knuckle affairs, so maybe the best move is no move. If there was one thing Ventura's predecessor, Ozzie Guillen, couldn't abide, it was an uncertain closer, and Sox fans will recall that in 2005 they won the world championship with the third closer of the season on the mound (Bobby Jenks, in relief of Dustin Hermanson and Shingo Takatsu).

Yes, Robin, the comparisons continue, but only because this requires you to be as astute and ruthless a manager as Ozzie to get the Sox into the playoffs.

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