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Unflappable Reed a perfect fit as closer

Unflappable Reed a perfect fit as closer

Unflappable Reed a perfect fit as closer
CHICAGO -- During Addison Reed's meteoric rise to the Majors last year, he had the chance to work with six different pitching instructors when factoring in White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves.

All of them had a similar White Sox organization focus, but each individual coach brought a unique teaching style to Reed's development. And the present White Sox closer appreciated every bit of information he gathered.

"I actually think it was pretty beneficial," said Reed, speaking recently in the White Sox dugout at U.S. Cellular Field. "I got six different points of view, rather than just one or two. That did nothing but help me.

"It was helpful to get a little bit from each person. I got to pick the brain of six people as opposed to one or two."

What Reed didn't learn during 2011 stints at Class A Kannapolis, Class A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham, Triple-A Charlotte and finally in Chicago was the unflappable demeanor that makes him a perfect fit at closer. That laid-back, unaffected attitude really can't be taught.

Take a couple of recent ninth-inning outings as perfect examples of that important Reed attribute.

On July 19, Reed was entrusted to protect a 1-0 lead with two runners on and Cody Ross hitting at Fenway Park. That lead and victory evaporated when Ross easily cleared the Green Monster for a game-winning three-run homer. Once Reed quickly realized Ross' clout wasn't going foul, he took one quick look over his right shoulder and then calmly walked off the field.

Then, in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, with the tying and winning runs in scoring position and two outs in the ninth, Reed induced a Brian Dozier fly ball to center fielder Alejandro De Aza to preserve his 18th save.

As De Aza glided under the routine Dozier fly ball, Reed exhaled, smiled and calmly walked off the field after exchanging handshakes and high-fives.

"Yeah, I just wanted to make it a little interesting," said a smiling Reed after the Target Field save. "But I got out of it, and we got out of here with the series win. So I'm feeling good."

That sort of short memory needed for a closer has not gone unnoticed by Reed's teammates.

"Addison is a pro. I think what we've talked about in the past, these young kids, [their] composure," said White Sox starter Jake Peavy of Reed and the other rookie hurlers. "Chris Sale seems so mature beyond his years. Addison Reed is the same way. All these kids, we're going to need them down the stretch."

"It's almost like once Reeder took over the ninth, everyone [in the bullpen] has kind of settled into the right spot," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "You see they're adjusting to it and becoming what we thought they could be."

Strong faith in Reed's closing ability was shown when the rookie kept his ninth-inning role even after the White Sox acquired established closer Brett Myers from Houston on July 21. Reed's success has allowed Myers to fortify the eighth inning for the White Sox.

"He's pitched in that role in the Minors, so I don't think it matters if he's a rookie or not," said Myers. "If they didn't think he could do the job, he wouldn't be here, so that's what he's bred to do. If he keeps his composure out there, he'll be fine."

"This has been fun," Reed said. "Like I always said, closing is something I always wanted to do. I couldn't have dreamt it out any better. Everything has worked the way I wanted it to and more. It's a blast. Just hopefully we keep winning and I can keep contributing."

The 23-year-old, third-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft came to the White Sox as a different sort of pitcher, in that he never had aspirations of becoming a starter. Sure, he was part of the rotation in 2010 for San Diego State and finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.50 ERA, but his hero always was Troy Percival and his goal always was to pitch the ninth.

Learning about the game from his San Diego State coach, Tony Gwynn, who also just happens to be a Hall of Famer, didn't hurt Reed's development during those formative years.

"Tony Gwynn had a huge influence on me," Reed said. "He didn't talk to me a lot about pitching, but more about what to expect when I got up here and how to deal with things that would come along and handle them.

"There was nobody better that I could have heard it from. He kind of gave me that next stepping stone into the Major Leagues. It was weird at first. I would say the first two weeks as a freshman -- it was kind of shocking to actually call him coach instead of Mr. Gwynn, but after that first two weeks, it was Coach Gwynn. Now he's a good friend of mine, and we still talk."

Former pitcher Jose Bautista, Bobby Thigpen, J.R. Perdew, Richard Dotson and Don Cooper joined Nieves as Reed's educated support staff in 2011. Thigpen was especially helpful as one closer to another, and Reed's confidence has taken him the rest of the way.

"If I blow a save, go out and get ready for the next save. If I save it cleanly, take the same mindset, whether it's a clean inning or bases are loaded," said Reed, who is 19-of-22 in saves after becoming closer on May 5. "Just go out and be ready for the next day. Never get too high or too low, whether it's good or bad."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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