ARLINGTON -- The White Sox literally went back to the future prior to Friday's season opener in Texas by agreeing to a Minor League deal with right-hander Kip Wells.
Yes, it's the same Wells who was the team's 16th pick overall in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and the same right-handed hurler who posted a 20-21 record and 5.14 ERA over three years with the White Sox. Wells has not pitched since 2009 with the Reds but impressed White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper with a bullpen session this week in Houston.
According to Buddy Bell, who is the White Sox vice president, player development and special assignments, Wells will be stretched out at extended Spring Training to be used as a starter.
"Coop worked him out in Houston and he said he was throwing better than most of the guys we had," said Bell of Wells, who has had no Spring Training. "So we'll see."
Closer carousel starts moving around
ARLINGTON -- As Addison Reed and Matt Thornton warmed up and eventually entered with the White Sox trailing during Friday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers, fantasy owners across the country let out sighs of disgust as their sleeper closer candidates disappeared.
"Well, I don't know if it has eliminated two guys," said Thornton, who threw a scoreless eighth to follow Reed's scoreless seventh in defeat. "But it's clear at least two are out of the running."
Those eliminations seem to leave Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago as the two remaining candidates in the great White Sox closer mystery. And with the White Sox down by one in the bottom of the eighth inning, Santiago received the call to start loosening up in case the White Sox rallied to take the lead.
So, these instructions have to mean Santiago will become the team's first rookie closer since Bobby Jenks in 2005, doesn't it? Not according to manager Robin Ventura's postgame comments, when he said it could have been Crain or Will Ohman or maybe even Nate Jones, followed by comments from Santiago about getting ready to pitch.
"They called down and said, 'Get moving around if we tie the game or go ahead,'" Santiago said. "They just said get moving around and watch the game."
Thornton gave the same basic response about his game preparation, stating that they called and got him up for the eighth without any preordained order. The bottom line is that the White Sox might not announce their closer until he records save No. 1, and even at that point they might not make it official.
On Thursday's workout day, pitching coach Don Cooper said there would be no closer by committee. But before Friday's setback, Ventura said that matchups could determine who actually pitches the ninth.
"At some point, it's not going to be the same guy all the time," Ventura said. "And not necessarily you think ahead as a bullpen committee, but a guy coming in the ninth, it will end up being different at some points of the season. Yeah, depending on how guys do versus certain teams and matchups. If we had Mariano Rivera, I'd be able to tell everyone I have a closer."
Instead, White Sox relievers are ready for pretty much anything from the sixth inning moving forward.
"Whatever it is now, it might not be for a month or two months depending on situations and what they feel is best for the team," Thornton said. "You'll see pieces throughout our lineup and in the field and in the bullpen moving in and out and rotating around."
Opening Day special for many first-timers
ARLINGTON -- Nate Jones had his wife, agent and a couple of friends, including the best man at his wedding, on hand for Friday's season opener at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Fellow rookie reliever Addison Reed had a couple of friends he went to school with, who now live in Texas, in attendance.
These two are part of a group of seven on the White Sox roster experiencing their first Opening Day, joined by Tyler Flowers, Eduardo Escobar, Hector Santiago, Zach Stewart and Dayan Viciedo. It's the culmination of a dream for these young players, feeling more real with each passing moment.
"In Spring Training, there was really not a 100 percent guarantee I was on the team," said Reed, who threw a scoreless seventh with one strikeout in Friday's 3-2 loss. "The whole time that was my main focus. It's an awesome feeling and I can't wait to get this season underway and get it going."
"Any way that you can get here is awesome," Jones said. "I know during spring, I had to fight for it and I just wanted to keep throwing strikes and it paid off. I'm just excited to be here."
Bell has special connection to Stone family
ARLINGTON -- Buddy Bell, who is the White Sox vice president, player development and special assignments, also had a highly successful playing career with the Texas Rangers.
Those eight years (1979-85, '89) helped form an unknown connection between Bell and the late Shannon Stone, the Texas firefighter who passed away from injuries sustained in an accident at the Rangers Ballpark last July. Stone caught a foul ball from Bell, and Bell was present Thursday at the ceremony dedicating a full-size bronze statue of Stone and his 6-year-old son Cooper at the home plate gate.
Bell presented a signed jersey, bat and ball to Cooper, and then grew emotional in the White Sox dugout Friday when talking about the moment.
"Obviously, it was great to meet the family," said Bell, pausing a few times between sentences to compose his thoughts. "To meet Cooper, what a great kid. The [sculptor] did a great job on it. It's awesome.
"It's very touching. Really, really nice people. It's awful something like that had to happen. I'm sure time will help. I don't know. It's hard to talk about."
There were articles about the connection sent to Bell to make him aware. But it was White Sox vice president, communications Scott Reifert and senior director of community relations Christine O'Reilly who helped set him up with the family.
Dunn opens season with fresh outlook, shave
ARLINGTON -- Before and after Friday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers, much focus was placed on Adam Dunn's missing beard and his shorter haircut, moves he said were done out of boredom on Thursday night in his hotel room. In between, Dunn tied Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. with a Major League-best eighth career Opening Day homer, while also walking and striking out in four at-bats.
"Adam had a great game," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. "He drew a walk, struck out and then hit a homer. That's what you expect a power guy to do in a game."
"That's the way it goes," said Rangers winning pitcher Colby Lewis, who yielded the 431-foot homer to Dunn leading off the sixth. "He guessed right and hit it a long way. Good for him. He's hit a lot of home runs in his career."
But Dunn hadn't hit one since Aug. 4. In fact, Dunn hit just one homer combined during August and September. The long ball didn't impress Dunn as much as sticking with his approach that he followed all spring at the plate.
He also talked about slight adjustments made to his routine as designated hitter.
"It will be different but the same concept," Dunn said. "Just probably doing a little different drills, as opposed to flips and stuff like that. So, yes and no, I guess. Stuff in the cage and yeah, it's a couple of other things I do, but mainly stuff in the cage."
Third to first
John Danks fell to 1-5 in six career starts at Rangers Ballpark following Friday's 3-2 loss.
Paul Konerko extended his White Sox record by starting at first base on Opening Day for the 12th straight season. Konerko's two singles also gave him 1,978 hits as a member of the White Sox.
Brent Morel became the first White Sox third baseman to go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in a game since Herbert Perry on Sept. 20, 2001.
With left-handed pitchers throwing for Texas the next two nights, Robin Ventura figures to get Brent Lillibridge a start. Ventura also said Adam Dunn would play first base at some point next week Cleveland.