2012 was the year of the rookie for the Chicago White Sox bullpen. At certain points throughout the season left-hander Matt Thornton was the only non-rookie reliever the White Sox had. From closer Addison Reed, to sinkerballer Hector Santiago, rookie arms were constantly being called upon to pitch in pressure-packed situations for the Sox.
Of the rookies in the South-Siders pen last year, Nate Jones may have been the most impressive. Jones posted a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings pitched and had an incredible 8-0 record as a reliever. With a fastball that reached triple digits on the radar gun, Jones was able to blow away hitters with ease. However, the young right-hander never got the chance to close or be the everyday setup man for the White Sox in 2012.
While I don’t believe Jones will be given many opportunities to close in 2013, becoming the Sox setup man is very obtainable for the 27-year-old. With the departure of Brett Myers, the Sox setup man job is somewhat up for grabs this spring. White Sox manager Robin Ventura certainly figures to give more proven relievers —Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom— the first crack at the opening. That being said, of the youngsters in the Sox pen, Jones is my top candidate to win the job.
All early reports regarding Jones from White Sox camp this spring are positive. Some reports have even indicated that he’s throwing harder than a year ago. If he can locate his fastball, develop his other pitches and remain healthy this spring, the sky’s the limit for Jones. While I believe Jones possesses the talent to be the Sox everyday setup man this year, he may have to wait his turn in line. No matter his role, White Sox fans should expect nothing but success from Jones in 2013.