1/7/2014 5:05 P.M. ET
Downs looks to bring experience to Chicago bullpen
Veteran lefty excited by opportunity after signing one-year deal with option for '15
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Scott Downs doesn't feel as if he picked the White Sox to be his sixth Major League stop in what will be his 13th big league season.
"They actually picked me," said Downs, speaking on a Tuesday conference call five days after the White Sox announced a one-year, $4 million contract with a club option for 2015 with the southpaw reliever.
"For me, it was a great fit to start the next chapter in my baseball career. It was a simple fact of what they had to offer, with the rebound effect they are going through," Downs said. "They had a tough 2013. There were talks I had with them about rebuilding, going young, veteran leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. I want to win and be a part of something special, and I think we have that here."
Downs, who turns 38 on March 17, joins Ronald Belisario in helping replace the veteran bullpen void created by the 2013 departures of Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. The trade of Addison Reed to the D-backs threw the bullpen into a bit more disarray, but with Nate Jones, Jake Petricka, Donnie Veal, Charlie Leesman and Daniel Webb, general manager Rick Hahn has already assembled a talented young relief corps.
It's up to Downs, Belisario and Matt Lindstrom to provide that on-field and clubhouse guidance brought about by 564 career games in Downs' case. The upbeat Downs seems excited to take on this leadership responsibility.
"I can get along with everybody. I fit in and don't get intimidated," Downs said. "We have young guys in the bullpen and my thing is for them not to get intimidated. Just have a lot of fun.
"I'm in the best shape of my life the last couple of years, and if my arm holds up, I still feel like I can go out and compete and get outs. I still feel like I can pitch for another four or five years. I want to pitch until they take the uniform off of my back."
As far as roles go, Downs admitted nobody really knows where they will fall bullpen-wise until Spring Training begins on Feb. 15. Jones appears to be the clubhouse leader for closer, although Downs has recorded 26 career saves. Downs considers himself more than a left-handed specialist and has been told he'll have the chance to compete as the left-handed setup man.
Relief work has been Downs' calling since 2006, but his career began as a starter on the North Side of town in '00. Downs now returns to an enjoyable environment to play, according to first-hand reports he received from Adam Dunn last season, and whether it's a rebuilding or a reshaping effort, Downs is glad the White Sox picked him.
"Looking back, it's kind of funny having my career start [with the Cubs] and now having this late in my career," said Downs, who will receive $3.75 million in 2014, while the White Sox hold a $4.25 million option for 2015 with a $250,000 buyout.
"The city is awesome. The people are awesome. It's one of my wife and kids' favorite cities. It's exciting coming back to a familiar spot and being closer to home and taking on this challenge for the next two years hopefully."