Linebrink thriving in altered role

Linebrink thriving in altered role

ARLINGTON -- Scott Linebrink feels good, feels confident and has been throwing strikes.

That trio of positive qualities have translated into a 1.12 ERA over six outings this season for the right-hander, with 11 strikeouts and three hits allowed in eight innings. The mound success is nothing new for the veteran setup man, but working in a quasi-middle-relief role certainly would be considered a change.

Three of Linebrink's appearances have covered more than one inning, and two of them have lasted two innings. Linebrink only threw more than one inning on five occasions in 2009, and his lone two-inning stint came against the Cubs on June 28. It's a job Linebrink currently accepts with full gusto but doesn't seem destined to carry out over the next five months.

"It's not something I've done in a long time, so I don't know," said Linebrink, prior to Tuesday's series opener with the Rangers. "I'm here to do whatever they want me to do. It's not something I've done in a while, and I am getting older.

"I don't know how long it's going to last or exactly what my role is or how I fit in. All I know is if you keep getting outs, everything else takes care of itself."

D.J. Carrasco served as the White Sox true middle man last year, called upon to pick up a starter with three innings out of the bullpen on more than a few occasions. With the White Sox highly touted starting rotation counted on to work deep into games this season, the team didn't break camp with a pure middle man.

This particular role has been filled by a combination of Tony Pena, Randy Williams and Linebrink. But manager Ozzie Guillen explained on Tuesday how it's not a set of responsibilities the team has affixed to Linebrink's job title.

"He's not, in our mind, the long man. We do not see him like Carrasco. It's not that way," Guillen said. "The most he pitches is two innings, but it's one inning always in my mind.

"Lino is throwing the ball the best in a long time. That's why we have to be careful about it. We have to make sure we keep him there and don't break it. We use him for two innings before just because that's what we needed him [to do]."