CHICAGO – When White Sox manager Robin Ventura evaluates closer Addison Reed, he doesn’t use any special grading scale.
For Ventura, it’s simply a pass or fail. Friday against the Rays, he earned a passing grade, despite some shaky moments in the Sox’s 5-4 win.
Reed didn’t make it easy on himself in the ninth inning after surrendering a one-out double to Rays catcher Jose Molina. Reed forced the next batter, Sam Fuld, to foul out, but Matt Joyce’s single drove in Molina and the right-hander walked Ryan Roberts on five pitches to put the tying run on second.
Ventura opted to stick with Reed as switch-hitter Ben Zobrist stepped to the plate. At no point did Ventura have a reliever warming up in the bullpen. Reed backed up his manager’s decision and needed only four pitches to strike out Zobrist, his last pitch an 86 mph slider that earned a called strike three on Zobrist’s check swing.
“You can overthink it, but right there he’s the guy,” Ventura said. “He’s done a lot better as far as lefties and having more ammo to get them out. It’s something I feel more comfortable with.”
Reed, who is 8 for 8 in save chances this season, matched his career high with eight consecutive saves, which he has accomplished three times in his career, most recently July 23 to Aug. 22 of last year.
“Not to sound cocky or anything, but that’s what I expected,” Reed said. “Coming into the year, I wasn’t expecting to go out there eight times and only get five saves. I expected that every save opportunity I get a save.”
For the first time in his career, Reed appeared in three straight games – all save opportunities. Reed said he felt strong, though conceded he wasn’t sure how he will feel today, after throwing 56 pitches the last three days, including a season-high 31 pitches Friday.
“When I’m out there, obviously I don’t want to get into that situation, but I want to get through the inning,” Reed said. “It’s awesome that he didn’t have anybody warming up, and it’s nice that they have that confidence in me.”
Reed follows the same routine every day even if he thinks he might get the day off. That mindset and preparation has kept him focused and his mechanics intact through his first 11 outings of the season. There haven’t been many moments where Reed has faltered. Tampa Bay’s ninth inning run was only the second run Reed had allowed this season.
But it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Reed’s arm can handle what is quickly becoming a heavier workload this season. He’s already one-fifth of the way to the 55 innings he threw last year, and the Sox have played only 22 games. Reed’s 11 innings are third most pitched this season by any closer. Reed didn’t reach the 11-inning mark last season until May 14 against Detroit, when he picked up his third save.
Closers are a commodity, and the Sox shouldn’t use Reed in every save opportunity, especially three days in a row. With capable arms such as Jesse Crain and Matt Lindstrom available, the Sox would be wise to watch the 24-year-old’s innings.
“The more he pitches, the better he is,” Ventura said. “It’s one of those that we like that he gets to come in and pitch. There might be times that you might find somebody else in that role, if he’s had a lot in a role but it’s his. It’s his job to do.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.