The bullpen is one of the most critical parts of a baseball team. Regardless of the strength of your starting rotation, if the bullpen can’t close the game out, it was all for naught. Any team that makes it deep into the postseason has a strong bullpen. The White Sox want to add the final few pieces to their strong group of guys.
Since the expansion to 26 men rosters, MLB placed a 13-pitcher limit to the roster. That leaves five starters and eight relievers. The team will certainly use all 13 spots, especially as guys ramp up for the regular season. With Liam Hendriks fighting cancer and Garrett Crochet starting in the minors to build up from Tommy John, some spots are up for grabs.
The White Sox did not make any big bullpen splashes in free agency, but they did sign and trade for some guys that pitching coach Ethan Katz has worked with in the past. Six players are a shoo-in for the roster: Kendall Graveman, Reynaldo Lopez, Aaron Bummer, Joe Kelly, Jake Diekman, and Jimmy Lambert. That leaves two guys to round out the bullpen. Here we look at who could take those spots…
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One of the most likely candidates for the long reliever spot, Martin had great success as a rookie last year. He was used primarily as a starter, but with the Sox signing Clevenger, there are not many starts up for grabs, barring injury. Martin looked good enough last year and has pitched well enough this spring to take the spot Vince Velasquez held last year. Martin is an upgrade over Velasquez, which is a plus. Going into his second year, he will have some major league innings under his belt, so one would imagine he would show some improvement. He will be an excellent addition to the everyday roster.
Looking to regain the magic from the Covid shortened season in 2020, Foster has bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors. He has pitched well this spring, tossing three scoreless innings, allowing one hit, and striking out three. His stuff is not as electric as a typical reliever, but he still is a very good pitcher. He profiles well as a middle-innings guy that will surely see time this year if it is not out of camp. I like him as one of the last options, but he may be sent down in favor of a guy with a higher ceiling.
The man with the most major league experience not listed as a shoo-in, he seems likely to retain his role in the bullpen in ‘23. The White Sox are familiar with him; he has always been pretty good. Last year was tough for him, as he pitched to a 4.6 ERA, but he did have some bright spots. He has good strikeout stuff, but he gives up a lot of hard contact, which is not ideal for a reliever. He is out of minor league options and looks to keep his spot barring a shocking cut.
One of the under-the-radar acquisitions by the Sox this offseason, he has pitched well enough this spring to stick around. He has given up only three hits in four innings pitched and struck out four. He has a couple of electric offerings to go with some elite velocity. In his short major-league action, he has not been phenomenal, but he is only 23 and has excellent stuff. If Ethan Katz has been working with him, he could be the next White Sox bullpen reclamation project. The Sox will have an interesting decision here, as he may be the odd man out. If Aaron Bummer starts the season on the IL, he will look to cement his spot in the bullpen for now.
The Sox will have some exciting decisions to make, as when Crochet comes back, they will have to send another player down. Regardless, the Sox seem to have some substantial depth if anyone in the ‘pen gets hurt.