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03/19/11 8:40 PM ET

Thornton to open year as White Sox closer

Guillen chooses veteran left-hander over younger Sale

PHOENIX -- Bobby Jenks' role as setup man for the 2011 Red Sox means the White Sox will have a new closer for the first time since late in the 2005 regular season.

And that honor has been bestowed upon hard-throwing left-hander Matt Thornton, as announced by manager Ozzie Guillen following his team's 8-3 loss to the A's on Saturday. Guillen talked to Thornton about the decision earlier in the day.

"A good percent of the time, he will be the guy," said Guillen of Thornton, who won the closer's job over rookie Chris Sale. "In my opinion, with Sale, we [would] have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, not because this kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

"Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence. He is the guy I think can do the job better."

Thornton has developed into an All-Star setup man during his five seasons with the White Sox, agreeing to a two-year, $12 million extension with a $6 million club option for 2014 during Spring Training. One school of thought was that Sale's talent would earn him the closer's job, which he handled flawlessly at the end of last season, but Thornton's value as one of the game's best setup men would also play into the equation.

Guillen ultimately decided that Thornton was the best fit for the ninth inning. Thornton was not part of the traveling squad on Saturday but had made it clear that he wanted the closer's job, even though he was willing to do whatever was asked of him. Thornton was 8-for-10 in save opportunities last season but has blown only one career save when protecting a ninth-inning lead.

Perspective, focus Sale's building blocks

PHOENIX -- There was nothing fancy about the side session thrown by Chris Sale on Saturday under the guidance of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

A few adjustments and alterations were made, but no major changes, according to Cooper. Basically, it was a return to the basics for the young and talented left-hander, who has struggled during his first Spring Training.

"He's put some excess stuff, more things in his mind that are draining and not productive," said Cooper of Sale. "We tried to eliminate some of that stuff today and got down to the nuts and bolts, which is one pitch at a time.

"We talked about focus. We talked about commitment and execution. We worked on command of his fastball."

Cooper listed Sale's one month in the big leagues, going through his first Spring Training and facing some of the best players on the planet as issues to be dealt with for the young southpaw. Cooper also noted that Sale is just starting the learning process and was reminded of how Matt Thornton and John Danks performed in their early stages with the team.

Nonetheless, Sale was frustrated to the point of even being bothered by outs recorded on hard-hit balls. Saturday's bullpen session was intended to get Sale re-focused and allow him to forget about his 6.48 ERA through six games.

"Let's face it -- he has dominated everywhere he has ever been," Cooper said. "We are still looking to dominate. But I've never had a guy that hits every location. We talked about that today.

"There are no worries about him. I told him to let me do the worrying, and he's doing it. What I've found over the years is if I'm not worried, they shouldn't be. It's when I worry that they should be. We talked about confidence and aggressiveness. We talked about focus and re-focus, from pitch to pitch."

With time short, Ozzie giving Teahen a look

PHOENIX -- After naming Matt Thornton his Opening Day closer, manager Ozzie Guillen said on Saturday that the White Sox other position battles remain open. Those competitions include the club's final utility spot, a possible seventh reliever and the starting nod at third base between Brent Morel and Mark Teahen.

Recent signs have pointed to the White Sox preferring Morel's defense at third base, not worrying about what he hits because of the club's deep lineup. Guillen didn't say as much on Saturday, but he talked about getting Teahen opportunities in the outfield before the team breaks camp.

"He will play third base -- he's on the team," Guillen said of Teahen. "Like I say, he's going to be at third base, right field -- whatever he's going to be playing -- but meanwhile, that's where we have him playing. Get him a start in the outfield to take fly balls out there, just in case."

Third to first

Sergio Santos' 1 1/3 innings of relief during Saturday's 8-3 loss to the A's raised his Cactus League scoreless streak to six games and six innings. ... Gregory Infante, who is firmly in the running to be the White Sox seventh reliever, allowed five runs on three hits and two walks over one inning in Saturday's loss. But Guillen noted that Infante is throwing the ball well and all pitchers run into one of these games during Spring Training. ... Lastings Milledge extended his hitting streak to nine games on Saturday.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen and follow him on twitter at @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.