Reliever Matt Lindstrom does not have it, plain and simple. Lindstrom does not have what it takes to be a closer at this stage of his career. After another blown save on Sunday, Chicago White Sox nation is becoming sick and tired of the experiment of having the veteran attempting to close games. Lindstrom is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP so far in 2014 while showing little hope that he can turn it around.
Successful closers are able to get hitters out through deception. Those who dominate either sport a blazing fastball or off-speed pitches that keep hitters on their toes. Premier closers have a combination of both of them. Lindstrom, on the other hand, has neither one of them.
Entering the season, it was known that the 34-year-old could not throw gas by hitters. Instead, he would have to rely on his array of meticulously placed off-speed pitches. When Lindstrom was successful last season in a setup role, he had a number of hitters swing at pitches in the dirt early in the count, setting up a fastball high in the zone that they would whiff at for strike three.
Now that Lindstrom’s breaking pitches are not breaking, he is either leaving them over the heart of the plate or they are flying out of the zone. This has led to the outrageous number of late-inning rallies for opponents. Hands flail in the air in disgust when Lindstrom is brought in a close game. Two weeks into the season, and fans have already given up on him; it is time that the team to do the same.
Buried in the bullpen struggles so far this season are the impressive starts to the season by Daniel Webb and Maikel Cleto. Webb has a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings of work with seven strikeouts and only five hits given up. Cleto has been perfect on the season, not allowing a run in 6.1 innings of work. Both are fairly young (Webb is 24 and Cleto is 25) and each man sports a more diverse array of pitches than Lindstrom.
Manager Robin Ventura has succeeded in the past when he has given a budding reliever the job as the closer early on in the year. In 2012 Addison Reed began his development into a legitimate closer when he took over for Hector Santiago. With the Sox looking for their closer of the future and Nate Jones currently on the DL, it makes sense to give either Webb or Cleto a shot.
Even if it is not one of them, taking Lindstrom out of the ninth inning role must be done if the Sox want the best chance to continue their impressive start.
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