Leesman works in relief, but prefers chance to start

Leesman works in relief, but prefers chance to start

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Charlie Leesman will work this Spring Training as a reliever, according to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. It's a role that gives Leesman the best chance to break camp with the team, as he battles with Frank De Los Santos, David Purcey and possibly Eric Surkamp to take the second left-handed-reliever spot behind Scott Downs from Donnie Veal.

If Leesman had the decision-making power, he would continue to be a starting pitcher for the White Sox. He made 125 of his 127 career Minor League appearances as a starter. But having his relief indoctrination through seven games at the big league level last season gives Leesman a boost of confidence that he can compete in either role.

"That was unexpected to go up there and it was, 'Here you go, you are in the big leagues. You are in a position you really haven't done much of,'" Leesman said. "It's nice to get those nerves out of the way up there and feel comfortable with whatever they want me to do.

"I feel like I'm in a good position. I could go either way: bullpen or starter."

Leesman posted a 1.74 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, appearing in six games as a reliever and one as a starter for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Part of sending Leesman to Arizona was to get him more innings after he missed the start of 2013 while rehabbing from left knee surgery at the end of '12.

His 7.04 ERA and 32 baserunners allowed over 15 1/3 innings for the White Sox were far from overwhelming. Leesman did strand all four of his inherited baserunners and limit opponents to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

"Being left-handed and being able to do that too is a definite advantage," Leesman said. "I would love to keep starting. Ultimately, that's what I want to do. But if it's in the bullpen, so be it you know. For right now, when they call on me, I'll just try to get guys out."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk& This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.