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Who Should Close For White Sox? Sergio Santos Has Right Personality, Stuff

It takes an outgoing personality to be a closer, and Sergio Santos of the Sox has just that.

Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox pitches in the 9th inning against the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox pitches in the 9th inning against the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Pick out any closer, and you'll find common traits beyond good swing-and-miss stuff -- no more Phil Regan and "Indian Jack" Aker spitballers and sinkerballers need apply.

The typical ninth-inning man must have a short memory. He can fail one day, but he has to do it all over again the next game. And the way to do that is via an outgoing personality, the ability to talk easily about your craft, your successes and setbacks, and be able to vent the bad outing immediately afterward to where it's all said and done.

The only closer I've encountered who couldn't do that was Antonio Alfonseca. He'd try to shoo away reporters with his uniquely-formed hand after blown Cubs saves in 2002. That attitude flipped off his bosses.

Every other relief ace expected to rehash the good and the bad, and was there at his locker to stand up for himself.  Bobby Thigpen could talk a good game. Bobby Jenks could verbally flush a bad one away afterward. Joe Borowski was good after games. Kerry Wood wanted to crawl into a hole after a blown save against the Brewers in 2008, but he stood pressed against his locker amid a mod of questioners as his eyes glistened. Rick Aguilera went beyond the pale, patiently waiting for reporters at his locker after a blown Cubs save in 2000 as the media mob finished with manager Don Baylor halfway a locker room away.

This sounds like a job for Sergio Santos.

The second-year White Sox right-hander is effusive and glib. I'm surprised he doesn't run to the mound from the bullpen. If you saw "The Club," he let it all hang out emotionally when Kenny Williams informed him he had made the Sox out of spring training in 2010. Ozzie Guillen talked of him as a future closer when he first impressed the Sox with his crackling fastball as a converted minor-league infielder. Here's a guy who'd grab the ninth inning role with all the verve and gusto possible. I want the job, and I'm not afraid of anything that can happen.

With Guillen at his wit's end about his suddenly cratered bullpen, I'd be surprised if he didn't designate Santos as closer before Friday's games. He probably has no other choice.

Matt Thornton as closer coming out of Arizona made some sense based on his veteran status, although upon closer examination the towering lefty is perhaps one of those relief pitchers whose comfort zone is the eighth inning. Thornton seemed like a pitcher with a great fastball who'd occasionally make a mistake from which you could more easily recover with another inning to do.

The scary thought is Chris Sale could be feeding into the age-old "sophomore jinx." No, I don't believe in jinxes and curses -- what it really entails is making adjustments the second time around the league before the hitters make the adjustments to you. So Guillen ought to stay away from Sale while he re-adjusts himself.

The major impact of the 1-for-7 Sox success rate in save opportunities is the inability to run away and hide from the Twins, off to a mediocre start. If the Sox were, say, 9-3 instead of 7-5, the pressure would start to mount on the Twins, who simply are not the regular-season dominators who have bedeviled the Sox for years.

There's time for Guillen and Williams to sort this out. Better mid-April than mid-August with a closer problem. They ought to let Santos fail before they go to a Plan C.