ARLINGTON -- If the White Sox have a ninth-inning lead in Friday's 2012 season opener against the Rangers, the pitcher called upon to close out the victory will be ... ?
Well, that question will soon be answered for both fans of the team and the media covering the South Siders, even if the particular pitcher already knows.
"They'll know before the game," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who didn't change his stance on naming a closer during the team's Thursday workout. "It's not like I'm asking them to hit or catch. They're just going to pitch. I think they'll be fine."
"It could be any of the seven guys we have in the bullpen," White Sox pitching Don Cooper said.
With all due respect to Will Ohman, Nate Jones and Zach Stewart, the closer's battle is limited to Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and rookies Hector Santiago and Addison Reed. Thornton started the 2011 season in this last line of pitching defense and was unsuccessful in his first four save opportunities, with that failure not all falling upon his shoulders.
Reed is considered the team's closer of the future, while Santiago emerged as a Spring Training possibility buoyed by a screwball that helps the left-hander handle right-handed hitters. So, why does such secrecy surround the choice, when there appears to be a handful of quality candidates?
Maybe Ventura doesn't want a rookie hurler to have to face pregame scrutiny regarding the pressure-packed job. Or if the choice is Thornton, maybe he just wants the hard-throwing southpaw to go into 2012 with a clean slate. Then again, maybe the White Sox don't feel the need to anoint a certain pitcher before the time comes.
One thing is certain: There will be no White Sox closer by committee. Any choice beyond that, the White Sox hope to present on Friday.
"Everything is going to be set," Cooper said. "Bullpen positions will be set, and guys will know when they are pitching. Again, that's kind of what we got planned."
"There's only a few in all of Major League Baseball where they're set," said Thornton of naming a closer. "That's the way it is. Only a couple of teams where, 'That's it.'"