Before the White Sox made Liam Hendriks their $54 million closer, the South Side reliever brought up the most in speculation about who could assume ninth-inning duties wasn't elite setup man Aaron Bummer. It wasn't veteran Evan Marshall or rookie fireballer Garrett Crochet.
It was Codi Heuer.
Heuer was a rookie in his own right during the shortened 2020 campaign, though Crochet's dazzling bit of action in the season's final week makes Heuer seem an elder statesman of sorts. He isn't, but he's impressing like one. So much so that one of his veteran teammates backed up that offseason conversation.
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"Codi was really a glue piece last year that I don’t think was talked about as much as it should (have been)," Bummer said. "That guy goes out there and throws (in) the high 90s with plus command, plus action on his pitches. To me, he’s a guy that’s going to be extremely good for a really long time.
"If he’s able to kind of repeat what he was able to do last year and continue to grow, that’s an extreme high-leverage arm that has All-Star, closer, that type of potential to add to the back end of our 'pen."
High praise. And indeed, Heuer earned it. He was excellent last season, posting a 1.52 ERA with 25 strikeouts in his 23.2 innings of work.
The White Sox are on track to boast an elite bullpen, with a lengthy list of arms that Heuer rightfully described as "electric" Friday. Hendriks, Bummer, Marshall, Heuer, Matt Foster, Crochet and Michael Kopech — the fireballer coming off back-to-back yearlong absences who's ticketed to be a part of the relief corps to start the season — make for a terrifying group if you're an opposing hitter. Marshall said last week that the White Sox bullpen being "anything short of elite would be a disappointment."
But while Hendriks has the All-Star status and the big-money contract, Bummer has put up back-to-back seasons of great numbers and Crochet and Kopech will grab headlines with their triple-digit fire, Heuer is receiving the same kinds of rave reviews as being just important a piece for that group.
"I wouldn’t want to catch him, and I wouldn’t want to hit against him," manager Tony La Russa said. "The ball jumps out of his hand."
"He’s light’s out," Foster said. "He’s got hard 98, 99 sink, and I don’t know how guys touch it. And you can see that they really don’t."
"My 'welcome to the big leagues' moment pretty much came from watching Heuer getting ready to go into the game," Crochet said. "I saw him dot a backdoor slider and then hit his spot with a fastball, and I was like, ‘Wow! Here it is.’"
As for Heuer himself, he's happy to be a little more settled in a year after coming to camp fighting for a spot on the major league roster, which he ended up getting months later, when the season finally started after "Summer Camp." Now, Heuer's a slam dunk to be a part of the 26-man group leaving Arizona at the end of next month.
Between springs, all he's experienced is a season as one of the best relievers in baseball and a trip to the playoffs, a bout of unfinished business that has him feeling the same way as the rest of this team.
"Anytime you can get any playoff experience, it's awesome," he said. "Even without fans and stuff during the postseason, you still felt that buzz, that extra postseason buzz around it.
"That season didn't end how we wanted it, and my last outing didn't go the way I wanted it. You kind of carry that chip (on your shoulder) throughout the offseason and into this spring. ... I'm very focused on what I need to do, and try to get back to that point, back in the postseason and back into those situations."