Thornton to open year as White Sox closer

Thornton to open year as White Sox closer

Thornton to open year as White Sox closer
PHOENIX -- Bobby Jenks' role as setup man for the 2011 Red Sox means the White Sox will have a new closer for the first time since late in the 2005 regular season.

And that honor has been bestowed upon hard-throwing left-hander Matt Thornton, as announced by manager Ozzie Guillen following his team's 8-3 loss to the A's on Saturday. Guillen talked to Thornton about the decision earlier in the day.

"A good percent of the time, he will be the guy," said Guillen of Thornton, who won the closer's job over rookie Chris Sale. "In my opinion, with Sale, we [would] have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, not because this kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

"Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence. He is the guy I think can do the job better."

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Thornton has developed into an All-Star setup man during his five seasons with the White Sox, agreeing to a two-year, $12 million extension with a $6 million club option for 2014 during Spring Training. One school of thought was that Sale's talent would earn him the closer's job, which he handled flawlessly at the end of last season, but Thornton's value as one of the game's best setup men would also play into the equation.

Guillen ultimately decided that Thornton was the best fit for the ninth inning. Thornton was not part of the traveling squad on Saturday but had made it clear that he wanted the closer's job, even though he was willing to do whatever was asked of him. Thornton was 8-for-10 in save opportunities last season but has blown only one career save when protecting a ninth-inning lead.