3/12/2014 8:27 P.M. ET
Closer's role remains an unanswered question
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Any search for the 2014 White Sox closer probably won't be solved until the first time the team takes a ninth-inning lead during the regular season.
"To even talk about closer, it's premature," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "I'll go back to what I said a while ago. When they're all healthy, we feel like we've got a couple, three guys who can go out and do it."
Slowly but surely, the White Sox closing options are getting healthy.
Ronald Belisario, whose arrival was delayed until last Saturday because of visa issues in Venezuela, is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut Thursday against the Angels. Daniel Webb, who returned home to Kentucky for one week because of the death of his mother, made his second scoreless appearance on Wednesday.
And Matt Lindstrom, who has not appeared in a Cactus League game because of a strained left oblique, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. If all goes well, he'll throw again on Saturday and could get into a game shortly thereafter.
Cooper remains confident that Lindstrom can break camp with the team.
"If we have another breakdown, then we might have to put the full-court press on him," said Cooper. "That's why we did it like this in the first place.
"Let's take the days now and hopefully we don't have to miss any days later. We know what he can do."
Nate Jones has two successful appearances under his belt after bouncing back from a left glute strain, going through the middle of the Rangers lineup in his one inning Tuesday. Jones seems to be the favorite, but whether he gets the job won't be known for another few weeks.
"Three of the guys we're talking about haven't participated," Cooper said. "We can't even talk about that. It's just a little too premature."
Keppinger may be headed to DL for start of season
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Without being able to play the field, Jeff Keppinger soon might be running out of consistent Cactus League at-bats as White Sox manager Robin Ventura gets closer to using his everyday lineup regularly during Spring Training's final two weeks.
But with Keppinger telling the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that his surgically repaired shoulder continues to feel tight and painful and he's not sure when he'll be able to throw defensively, a trip to the disabled list seems to be the most likely option facing the veteran utility man to start the season.
"It's probably going to push him back somewhat in trying to find him at-bats," said Ventura. "It's going to be tougher to do as we go along, with [Paul] Konerko and [Adam] Dunn, trying to find at-bats. He just needs to get healthier to be able to throw, but it's looking like it's tougher to do that if he can't throw."
"[Time is] somewhat short to be able to do that as of right now, unless he makes a miraculous comeback," Ventura said.
Ventura has used Keppinger for two straight days as designated hitter, while giving breaks to Dunn and Konerko, as Keppinger is able to swing the bat. Ventura also talked about getting him at-bats in Minor League games or "B" games.
There's no room on the active roster for him, though, without being able to play defense. Not with Dunn or Konerko, a backup catcher and Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo already committed to three of the four bench spots.
Keppinger's lingering issue could open up a roster spot for Marcus Semien, Leury Garcia or even Carlos Sanchez, who all have the ability to play third, shortstop or second. Garcia also can play the outfield.
Boggs not yet focused on spring results
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The results from Mitchell Boggs' two-thirds of an inning Tuesday against the Rangers certainly were not desirable at any level of competition: four runs allowed on three hits and one walk.
But in Cactus League action, in the dry desert air of Arizona, the work is as important as the statistics for the veteran right-hander.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I gave up a few runs and I don't care," Boggs said. "Every time I step on the mound I want to compete and do well. But, at the same time, you gotta have the perspective of that was my fourth time out yesterday."
"I've never really had a lights-out Spring Training other than last year. I don't think that correlates to how your season is going to be. But, at the same time, by no means am I running out there and going through the motions. I've competitive and want to get the job done."
Boggs allowed one run over eight innings last spring for the Cardinals, and followed up that effort with the worst season of his career. Early on with the White Sox, Boggs has been focusing on getting the ball away from arm side a little bit, which is a part of his repertoire where he has always struggled.
"Now, it's just getting my sinker going like I know it can," Boggs said. "That's a little bit of a trial out here in the desert. I've had a couple of good outings and a couple of ones where I've given up runs.
"I don't want to do that but, at the same time, it's March 12. I feel good about how my arm feels, and I feel excited about the next couple of weeks."
Paulino wants to throw fewer strikes
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Throwing too many strikes never has been considered a problem for starting pitchers. But it's an issue Felipe Paulino believes he has faced during three Cactus League starts with the White Sox.
Paulino worked 3 2/3 innings in the team's 4-3 loss to the Giants on Wednesday and was pleased with his overall performance, including five strikeouts. But when it came to wasting 0-2 pitches in the dirt, Paulino continued to get too much of the strike zone by his estimation.
"When I got the guy ahead in the count, I had a little problem throwing the ball in the dirt," said Paulino, who allowed hits to Gregor Blanco, Mike Morse and Buster Posey to start the game, but allowed only two hits after the first inning.
"That's supposed to be easy for me, but I throw too many strikes," Paulino added. "When I throw the pitch, I throw low, but not low enough. The only way I can fix it is when the hitter is there, face him again. We'll see what happens. The good thing right now is progress."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura was more focused on Paulino's gradually building stuff than his theory on throwing too many strikes.
"He started out a little rough, but he got sharper the longer he stayed in there," Ventura said. "Besides the first inning, he pitched well.
"Early on, they were just jumping on stuff that was up. After that, he was pretty sharp. He found it as he went along."
Third to first
• Prior to Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Giants, the White Sox optioned left-hander Charlie Leesman to Triple-A Charlotte, optioned outfielders Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson to Double-A Birmingham and reassigned catcher Miguel Gonzalez, right-handers Deunte Heath and Omar Poveda, left-hander Scott Snodgress and outfielder Keenyn Walker to Minor League camp.
The White Sox have 47 players in Major League camp: 23 pitchers, four catchers, 14 infielders and six outfielders.
• Cooper set a goal of four innings and/or 60 pitches for Jose Quintana in his Thursday start. Quintana lasted only two batters last Saturday, when he took a Gerardo Parra line drive off of his left shin. The contusion he sustained has not prevented him from making his next start, and the White Sox are pushing to raise his workload and get him back on track.
• Ventura feels a recent B game appearance helped Tyler Flowers work on some adjustments offensively.
"That's part of being down here is being able to find what's going to work and be able to stick with it," said Ventura of his catcher. "He found something that's comfortable and today he had some good at-bats taking the ball the other way. You have to work at it and get comfortable with it to where you are confident when you go to the plate that you can execute."
Flowers had two hits and a RBI in Wednesday's loss to the Giants.