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Yes, Virginia, the Sox bullpen exists

Yes, Virginia, the White Sox bullpen exists

ANAHEIM -- The Chicago White Sox have a bullpen, and in that bullpen they have relief pitchers, just like any other baseball team. Trust us. Or are you going to believe your eyes?

Just because they haven't been seen during this American League Championship Series, it doesn't mean they aren't out there, ready to serve if needed.

That is becoming a bigger "if" with every passing gem by a Chicago starter.

"I've got no problem with this at all," said Bobby Jenks, the White Sox closer who hasn't been closing anything but the bullpen gate behind himself after he enters.

"If you don't see us, it just means the starters are doing a great job," Jenks added.

They are certainly doing a great job of turning back the clock. Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland have become the first trio of starters to consecutively go eight-plus innings in a Championship Series since the Pirates did it in 1992.

"We were just sitting out there talking about this," said Dustin Hermanson, who closed himself until becoming Jenks' setup man in the second half of the season. "When's the last time there were two complete games in any postseason series, never mind back-to-back?"

And the answer is ... before Buehrle and Garland, the ALCS hadn't seen back-to-back complete games since the Angels themselves did it in 1982, with Tommy John and Bruce Kison against Milwaukee.

Chicago's three starters have secured 79 of 81 outs in a Series the White Sox lead, 2-1, following Garland's 5-2 performance in Friday night's Game 3.

"Cotts is the workhorse of our bullpen," said Cliff Politte while motioning to the guy in the adjacent locker, Neal Cotts, who got the final two outs of Game 1 in relief of Contreras.

Jenks, Hermanson, Politte and their comrades in well-rested-arms conceded some restlessness. While pitching staffs typically are gassed by this time of the baseball calendar, the Chicago bullpen is uncommonly rested. Even the Division Series sweep over Boston was relatively stress-free.

But along with the luxury of just kicking back and having little to do during games but spit sunflower seeds comes a bit of anxiety, as well as concern for how ready they'll be when finally called on.

"It's definitely hard to stay sharp when you get too much rest," Hermanson said, "but how can you complain about it? What they're doing is pretty amazing. Not much you can do about it."

Except have daily dry runs. Pitching coach Don Cooper is making sure his relievers get up to throw regularly, keeping their arms as nimble as possible.

"We have them throw, just to keep them as sharp as possible," Cooper said. "It's all you can do."

As far as the real thing is concerned, Jenks hasn't pitched since a week ago Friday, in the White Sox's Division Series clincher in Boston. Politte last cracked a box score in the ALDS opener on Oct. 4.

As for Hermanson, he hasn't been seen since Sept. 30. No wonder he betrayed the most definitive scowl when the subject of inactivity was broached.

"It really is hard to stay sharp when you don't pitch for such a long time," he said, "But what we're seeing now isn't really that unusual for this staff.

"Even during the regular season ... I can't think of a single time our starter didn't go at least five innings. I know it happened, like after we clinched and were just trying to get guys work, but very rarely.

"So," Hermanson added his footnote, "we've just been spectators, just like the fans."

Except their seats weren't as good. Then again, they did not have to pay for them.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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