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Reed's singular goal to remain closer

Reliever determined to fight for job, make adjustments in repertoire

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Addison Reed arrived at Camelback Ranch last February, he had one simple baseball-related goal in mind.

His target wasn't to become the White Sox closer, which he did on May 5 with career save No. 1 in Detroit. His hope wasn't to set the franchise single-season rookie saves mark, an accomplishment he hit by reaching a final total of 29.

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All Reed wanted to do was break camp with the team, a modest desire coming on the heels of a whirlwind five-stop run to the Majors in 2011.

One year later, Reed admits to feeling more comfortable in the clubhouse as a veteran of sorts compared to last year's Spring Training.

But even with a successful season, during which the right-hander blew only four saves, on his resume, the 24-year-old still takes nothing for granted. He certainly won't lay claim to the undisputed nod as the team's 2013 closer.

"I'm not going to have the mindset that I have that ninth inning on lock, 100 percent," Reed said. "I really don't think I do. Just go out there and try to throw up zeros [during Spring Training] and try to do the best I can. Make the decision tough for them and keep me in that role.

"Any of the guys in our bullpen have the stuff to throw in the ninth inning. I honestly don't think there's one guy that can't throw the ninth. So I'm not taking anything for granted and I'm going to act like it's still up for grabs and fight for it."

In reality, the 2013 closer's job is Reed's to lose. Then again, Reed is not wrong in thinking others in the bullpen could challenge.

Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Matt Lindstrom have past closing experience at the Major League level. Hector Santiago started as the White Sox closer in 2012, before giving way to Reed. Donnie Veal certainly could be used to get an out or two against tough left-handed hitters, after lefties finished a mere 3-for-32 facing Veal in 2012, and Nate Jones had as impressive a rookie debut as Reed did to put himself in the mix.

It's a sentiment general manager Rick Hahn espoused Tuesday when meeting with the media, after offering up support for Reed. Even if Reed secures the ninth inning as expected, the White Sox have options to give the young hurler a break from time to time.

"Obviously he established himself last year," said Hahn of Reed. "At the same time ... I feel that [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] should have the depth, knock on wood, and alternatives to play the best matchup.

"I try not to get too hung up on, 'This guy is the closer and this guy is the setup man.' It makes guys more comfortable to know when they are going to get ready. At the same time, given the communication with [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] and I expect [bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen] and Robin will have with our guys, they know we will go to the best guy to get the most important out when it arises. A lot of times it will be Addison in the ninth, and sometimes perhaps it might not be."

That "taking nothing for granted" attitude put forth by Reed comes with extra work to support it.

Although he did not feel physically tired at the end of the 2012 season, the numbers showed differently with a 5.63 ERA after the All-Star break and an 8.00 ERA in September. So, Reed amped up his offseason conditioning program, doing extra work on the bike and running 15 or 20 sprints in a session where he might have run 10 last year. That extra conditioning will continue in season.

Reed also got "fastball happy" at times last year, by his admission, so he focused on improving his slider.

"Hitters would pick up on that real quickly," said Reed, who threw his fastball 75 percent of the time last season, the slider 13.8 percent of the time and the changeup 11.2 percent according to FanGraphs.com. "They have scouting reports and talk with other teams. I threw fastballs the majority of the time and they know that."

Cooper understands Reed's desire for improvement within his entire repertoire but he also doesn't want Reed to move too far away from his best pitch.

"I'd have to look at specifically what he's saying and how well those fastballs were located," said Cooper of Reed's comments on fastball usage. "It's about the consistency of all of his pitches, the consistency of your fastball.

"Power to me isn't how hard you throw it. Power to me is the ability to know and execute where you want to throw it, whether you throw it 85 [mph] or 105. It's the best pitch in baseball. So that's always No. 1 for me. But the consistency of his changeup, his slider ... those we are trying to put the package together more and more with him."

Thigpen wants to help Reed improve in non-save situations, where he dipped to a 6.20 ERA last year, as opposed to a 3.56 ERA in save situations. Reed remains open to any and all suggestions.

While he's making no assumptions in regard to closer, he never hides one important fact. It was a job that Reed was born to do.

"I've never dreamt of being a starter or a position player," Reed said. "Closing is one thing I've always wanted to do and I envisioned myself doing. I got that chance last year and hopefully I can do that for many more years."

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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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }