Matt Lindstrom as the White Sox closer was always artificially installed. He never read as the best pitcher in the bullpen, nor was he expected to develop into it by season's end, nor did his stuff project to play well in the role. Once the season started, he struggled immediately and mightily, yet the Sox weathered his troubles even though his potential didn't justify it.
And in equally unnatural fashion, Lindstrom departs. One of most well-conditioned pitchers on staff, Lindstrom had the sheath on his left ankle tear as he planted his foot while bounding off the mound to field a bunt; a bunt Ned Yost had ordered laid down to move his pinch-runner to second base.
In his stead, Ronald Belisario has been elected as the de-facto closer. No one's season line looks very good right now thanks to the first two weeks, but it's not hard to find the stretch where Belly ingratiated himself to management. Since April 20: 18.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, ER, BB, 14 K, opponents hitting .129/.169/.161. He's a hot, typically wild hand riding one of the most under control stretches of his career.
Belisario's a decent man to go to, but also a choice that's made when you're not overly invested in the future of the position. Not much in his pedigree suggests he's capable of dominating on a long-term basis — he was DFA'd this past offseason, for goodness sake. He's not signed past this season, and if Don Cooper holds his hand and guides him to a career-year racking up saves going into free agency as a 32-year-old, he's not exactly a great bet to return, either.
Belisario can be coached up into a usable closer and flipped, or he can fall on his face without consequences. The potential for gain outstrips the potential for problems, which differentiates Belisario from a crop of relief prospects primed to fall on their faces without careful management.
Jake Petricka and Daniel Webb have promise and liver arms than Belisario, but are also barely finding their feet under themselves as major leaguers. For as much hope and promise Webb has for ninth innings in the future, collective swooning over his potential has blotted out his currently very shaky control (16.9 BB%). Petricka, as seen Wednesday night, could also afford to sharpen up his control of his tumbling mid-90's fastball, and like Belisario, that's mostly what he offers. He's of the same groundball-heavy ilk that is not a natural choice for the highest-leverage scenarios.
Zach Putnam is yet another tumbler-thrower, and the Sox should probably just be thankful for the production they're getting from him.
Beyond a limited ability to immediately outperform Belisario, all of these guys are likely to be overwhelmed by a larger role. Any closer almost instantly becomes someone worth trading, but without an Addison Reed-like prospect demanding the role, the Sox can focus solely on flipping their rental properties. The closer for the next contending White Sox team is recovering from back surgery, or currently walking 6.00/9 IP, or is drunk and out of baseball somewhere, and they really shouldn't worry about him for now.
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