Thank your boy, Cornbread Maxwell.
Guillen's gut to trump 'book' on picking closer
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By Bob Foltman
Tribune staff reporter
June 8, 2004, 11:20 PM CDT
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said in spring training he wouldn't necessarily follow "the book" when it came to his bullpen.
He was going to go with the best match-up at the time, so if there was a situation in which Damaso Marte pitched the ninth inning of games, so be it.
That strategy blew up on him Opening Day in Kansas City and Guillen became a devoted follower of the modern-day manager gospel, which dictates naming a closer and sticking with him no matter what.
Or at least until that closer blows a couple saves.
Billy Koch did just that last week on the West Coast, the most galling coming Sunday in Seattle when he allowed three runs, three hits, three walks and four stolen bases in a 5-4 loss to the Mariners.
Now, two full months into the season, Guillen has come full circle, saying Tuesday he's going to go with his "gut feeling."
"We're going to go with anyone," Guillen said. "We're going to look at the match-ups in the ninth. It could be Marte, it could be [Shingo] Takatsu, it could be [Mike] Jackson or it could be Koch."
Guillen said he still envisions Koch being his "closer"—once he gets himself on track. Guillen said he would use Koch any time he thinks the matchup is right. Once Guillen has confidence Koch can close out games, he'll be back to working the ninth exclusively.
"Just because he had a bad trip, he's not out of the picture," Guillen said. "I just want him to be what he's supposed to be."
Koch didn't seem bothered by the new situation.
"I think everybody in that bullpen is able to become a closer," Koch said. "That's Ozzie's call."
Koch said if he were managing, he would stick with himself in the role.
"I had a rough trip," he said. "I gave up two broken-bat singles in Oakland that bit me and I just had a flat-out bad one in Seattle. I don't know what it is in Seattle but I've never pitched well there."
Guillen agonizes over changing what he believes has been a strong bullpen. That's why he won't come out and name Takatsu as his closer.
"I don't want to break something I have," Guillen said. "[Takatsu] never has been in this role in the States. When you saw Takatsu in spring training, I never thought he could pitch in this league. That's why I brought him [along] little by little."
Savvy veteran that he is, Takatsu isn't about to get drawn into the controversy, no doubt thankful for the language barrier that shields him from the media most of the time.
"I've been there and done that and I know what he's going through," Takatsu said through his interpreter. "It's a very tough job to do."
So tough, it seems, it's going to take a cast of characters to do it—at least for a while
My comments: Don't read too much into it.
1. Koch can't close...his control is too wild. And he's not effectively wild, he's just wild.
2. Ozzie probably doesn't want to bring his confidence down.