By MEGHAN MONTEMURRO - email@example.com
CHICAGO – Close games in September have meant overworked arms for some of the White Sox relievers.
Manager Robin Ventura tried his best to stay away from young relievers who have already pitched more innings than ever before in their professional career. Veteran right-hander Jesse Crain was the biggest beneficiary Friday against Tampa Bay, and he couldn’t be happier that he’s healthy enough to contribute at the end of the year.
“Even right now it still feels like we have a lot of games left,” Crain said. “It feels like it’s been forever. That’s a good thing because that means I’ve been pitching for a while and, like I said, feel good. It’s exciting to be able to be a part of winning and accomplish your goal as opposed to just playing to the end just to go home. We’re here and we’re all in until they tell us we can’t play anymore.”
Injuries have taken a chunk of Crain’s season – he strained both obliques and also strained his shoulder – limiting him to 50 appearances and 47 innings pitched. He’s finishing the year strong, however. He went 2 2⁄3 in relief Monday for his longest outing since April 28, 2010.
“That’s when I had a couple of those muscle injuries, obliques and the shoulder strain, that I wanted to make sure I was all the way healthy for the end of the season,” Crain said. “There’s no point in rushing back then and not being able to pitch now. Being able to take that time and be all the way healthy and being able to throw now and be healthy was what the plan was. Yeah I’m happy that we took that approach and that I’m feeling good now.”
Befuddling division: Nobody can solve what is the oddity known as the American League Central division.
“It’s competitive,” Ventura said. “There are some teams having good years in other divisions. But whichever team gets in, it’s not going to be a cake walk for anybody else.”
The Sox and the Detroit Tigers have jockeyed for position atop the division but have never been separated by more than 3 1⁄2 games since May 29.
“Looking back at the season, it’s changed so many different times the ebbs and flows of how it goes,” Ventura said. “Sometimes it’s week to week. Sometimes it’s inning to inning. But that’s part of the thing of baseball that’s fun and agonizing at the same time, it’s nobody can put a finger on it.”
Quick hits: Ventura said the Sox’s rotation for their three-game season finale in Cleveland still hasn’t been set. … Orlando Hudson was the first Sox with a pinch hit grand slam, in the eighth inning off Chris Archer, since Andruw Jones’ on Sept. 12, 2010 against Kansas City.