Linebrink to lose setup duties
Struggling reliever forces White Sox to make move
CHICAGO -- Following the White Sox 8-7 victory over the Royals on Monday night, reliever Scott Linebrink received a phone call from his mom to congratulate him on being the game's winning pitcher.
It's a win Linebrink gladly would give to Monday's starter Mark Buehrle. It's also a win that temporarily will cost the right-hander his eighth-inning setup job.
"Not because I don't trust him and not because he's not pitching the way we want," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen during Tuesday's pregame media session.
"It's just because I want him to relax a little bit more, don't feel like every time he's on the spot, 'Oh my God, I've got to throw the ball well,'" Guillen said. "We're trying to get him back on track."
Linebrink fell off track on Monday night in a rather strange manner. Protecting a 7-4 lead in the eighth inning, Linebrink fanned Miguel Olivo and retired Alberto Callaspo on a routine fly ball to right fielder Jermaine Dye. His velocity was consistently around 95 mph and his location looked good through two outs.
But just when Linebrink seemed to have a hold on the inning, he couldn't find the plate -- giving up walks to Mark Teahen and Mitch Maier. Pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs launched the next pitch for a game-tying home run, setting off a chorus of boos from the sold-out crowd.
None of those disappointed fans could have possibly been as tough on Linebrink as he was on himself.
"That's one of those things I thought long and hard about," Linebrink said. "You try to leave everything at the field, but that's one of those outings that hangs around and gnaws at you. I just have to do a better job of throwing strikes, especially when you get two quick outs like that.
"Basically, you knock one leg out from under them so you just have to lean on them. I put myself in a bad situation. I put a guy up there who is going up there to do one thing and he did it."
With Linebrink having allowed 10 runs on nine walks and 15 hits over his past 10 2/3 innings, the move by Guillen seemed like a natural one in the short term. Linebrink also has an 8.44 ERA since the All-Star break, compared to a 1.93 ERA in the season's first half.
Matt Thornton would be the logical bridge to closer Bobby Jenks, but Guillen likes to use Thornton at any point late in the game to get out of trouble. Octavio Dotel and Tony Pena will get late looks, but Guillen added that middle reliever D.J. Carrasco should not be ruled out.
"If we think Carrasco is the guy to do it, we'll just pitch him for an inning," Guillen said. "Carrasco can do a lot of things. I think Carrasco has a stamp on his forehead, 'pick-up garbage guy.' Everything he's been doing has been great."
Linebrink will be ready anywhere from the fifth inning on, in an effort to return the right-hander to the All-Star form he featured in the first half during each of the past two seasons. The only saving grace on Monday for Linebrink was that the White Sox came away with a victory.
"I came in here and reminded myself of that the whole time, but I get so mad at myself over something like that," said Linebrink, referring to his performance. "And there's nobody the blame for that inning can fall on but me. It's an outing where you want to get back out there as soon as possible and do what you can to erase it.
"You can't look at the home run. You have to look at the two two-out walks. That kind of stuff, it just can't happen, especially when you are in a save situation. I mean, I felt good last night. My focus was there, stuff was there. I have to do a better job of staying aggressive all the way through the inning and keep throwing strikes."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.