By the end of April, after a strong first three months, that same high-octane bullpen (Matt Thornton, Bobby Jenks, Boone Logan, David Aardsma, Andrew Sisco, Nick Masset and Mike MacDougal) fell apart in what turned out to be the worst season under the recently ended Ken Williams/Ozzie Guillen eight-year regime. The current relief crew, unscored upon over its first 8 2/3 innings before Hector Santiago surrendered a ninth-inning homer to Jose Lopez in Monday's 4-2 victory over the Indians, has that same special feel as a group.
But Thornton, a member of both bullpens, doesn't believe this present unit with rookies Santiago, Nate Jones and Addison Reed and Zach Stewart in his first full big league season will meet the same ugly fate as five years ago.
"I can't put a finger on it, but this group has a much better feel right now," said Thornton, comparing 2012 to 2007. "It definitely is a very positive group we have out there. We are willing to do anything it takes to win games.
"These guys just seem to know how to pitch and compete and go out there and go about their business the right way. Some of the guys from the '07 bullpen have gone on and had nice careers elsewhere, but again, this just has a different feel."
Thornton has been impressed with this group of young hurlers since the first day of Spring Training. They all came in without big league guarantees, although Reed was going to have to pitch his way out of a spot, and not only got themselves noticed but earned the right to break camp with the team.
"Hector went from probably the long guy coming in to Spring Training to the closer, that's how good of a spring he had," said Thornton of the team's new closer. "The condition he came in, the energy he came in with, how well he pitched. His stuff is pretty awesome. He's a unique pitcher who is fun to watch."
Now, this group of seven gives manager Robin Ventura the ability to shorten the game to six or seven innings, not to mention possessing versatility at the back end of the bullpen. Thornton, as one of the veteran leaders with Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, knows there will be growing pains to endure but doesn't seem worried about the young charges surviving.
"Pitching back-to-back games or on four out of five days. Getting your brains beat in one time and how you bounce back after that, because it's going to happen no matter how good you are," Thornton said. "It's not fun.
"Will, Jesse and myself have had our fair share of failure combined. We can help them out with that and get them ready for the next day and let them know they can forget it and move on."