CHICAGO -- Sergio Santos has become the popular choice to become the White Sox closer, pitching scoreless baseball since the start of Spring Training. Even with his 96 mph fastball, slider and changeup developing quickly, that job never would have been a thought in 2010 when Santos was making the big league transformation from infielder to pitcher.
Last-season restrictions such as keeping Santos to one inning per outing, which happened every appearance but two through June, and restricting his back-to-back work have been removed. The White Sox view him as a prime reliever, not a talented project.
"Just be prepared for anything, that was the message they got to us," Santos said. "[Matt] Thornton was our closer, but be prepared for the seventh or eighth, back-to-back, two innings.
"[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] let me know that leash of you becoming a pitcher is right out the window. That's no longer a discussion."
So, could Santos handle the ninth-inning work? He expressed that desire from the start of Spring Training but that chance has become a bit more viable following Thornton's last-inning struggles.
"The only difference is the pressure people put on you as far as it's the ninth inning," said Santos, who has fanned 11 and not given up an earned run over 8 2/3 innings this season. "I've always gone with the belief how pressure is fear of failure. If you are afraid to fail, you feel the pressure. If you are not, then you don't."