03/27/08 9:45 PM ET
Cooper offers staff assessment
Pitching coach pleased with where starters are entering season
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
Entering Thursday's game, the Sox staff posted a 5.74 spring ERA, and all the starters but Mark Buehrle had ERAs over 4.50 (Buehrle finished at 2.14). But the Cactus League numbers hold little meaning and are secondary at best to the work accomplished in camp.
"If I look at everybody individually, each guy seems to have had one poor start, other than Buehrle," Cooper said. "[John] Danks had one. Gavin [Floyd] had one. Javy [Vazquez] had the first one against Arizona. [Jose] Contreras had one.
"So I'm happy with where the starters are entering the season. They got all the work down here that they needed to get. The innings and the pitches are where they need to be. Now the bell rings and the stuff will count."
The starting staff was not a question mark heading into spring, but the makeup of the bullpen has been, and the final spot remains in contention as Ehren Wassermann and Nick Masset pitched a Minor League and Major League game, respectively, Thursday before waiting for final word on who gets the last job. The decision may come as late as Saturday in Memphis, Tenn.
"As far as the relievers go, I think we got the information that we needed to get on who needs to be pitching where and their roles and what they do," Cooper said. "We got to know the two new guys, [Scott] Linebrink and [Octavio] Dotel, two guys that we hadn't seen before, hadn't met. We got to know those guys and see a little more about them.
"Matt Thornton's throwing the ball pretty well this spring," Cooper continued. "Boone Logan's throwing the ball well. Bobby [Jenks, closer] had probably his best spring as far as results and being out there from the beginning and not being brought into the manager's room to get yelled at three or four times. Mike MacDougal, I remember saying after his first two outings -- and one outing was a simulated game -- that we came up for a plan with him and the plan seems to be working. He hasn't given up a run in six or seven outings."
Cooper's comments were echoed by manager Ozzie Guillen, who felt good about the overall status of the club coming out of a competitive spring camp.
"The win-loss column wasn't what we wanted, but I think we played better this Spring Training as a ballclub," Guillen pointed out. "In general it was everything I was looking for. It was different because there was a lot of fighting for a job. Before, we had the team set. This year, we had a couple good fights for spots, and they did it the right way. I'm happy the way we went. Over the next couple of days we'll get ready for the season, polish it and then go back for the real thing."
The competition for spots was good enough that the final decision is still a day or two away, but Guillen could feel the club coming together as the Sox wrapped up the Arizona portion of their spring.
"We're going to leave here with the team ready to go," Guillen emphasized. "The guys know how they're going to play and when they're going to play, and they'll be prepared."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.