White Sox bullpen of the future already starting to assemble on the South Side


For all those South Side baseball fans making 2020 lineup projections, the focal points have typically been the starting rotation and the batting order.

Maybe you have Zack Burdi penciled in as the team’s closer, but odds are that planning out the bullpen of the future isn’t as frequent an undertaking for fans as is trying to figure out which five arms will comprise the starting staff or which outfielders become the starting three.

But the bullpen of the future might be beginning to assemble already.

In recent days, the White Sox have promoted Ryan Burr, Ian Hamilton and Caleb Frare to the major league roster. Those promotions didn’t gain the same amount of attention as Michael Kopech’s arrival at Guaranteed Rate Field. They won’t do anything to take Eloy Jimenez off anyone’s mind. But they’re important moves and another sign of progress in this rebuilding effort.

All three relievers put up ridiculously good numbers in the minor leagues this season. Burr had a 2.45 ERA in 37 games with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Hamilton had a 1.74 ERA in 39 games with the same two teams. And Frare, acquired from the New York Yankees in an end-of-July trade, had an 0.78 minor league ERA in 43 games with Charlotte and the Yankees’ Double-A and Triple-A clubs.

And aside from the results, there’s also no shortage of the same kind of confidence you’ve heard from guys like Kopech, Jimenez, Dylan Cease and Luis Robert in the relief corps, either.

“It’s exciting,” Burr said Saturday. “Everybody’s down there chomping at the bit to get up here. They want to show what they can do. I think the trajectory that this whole thing’s going counts on a lot of us young guys, especially in the bullpen, to come together as a group and be somewhat of the core group of this thing moving forward.

“The competition down there is good for the whole organization moving forward. Everybody’s trying to one-up each other, and competition breeds success. Everybody wants to be a part of this. It’s cool, especially the young guys, we want to get up here and put our stamp on it, stay here for as long as we can and get this thing going the way we want it to go.”

Hamilton has probably been the most talked about of this trio, and he made his major league debut in Friday night’s win over the Boston Red Sox, thrown onto the big league stage for the first time in the ninth inning against the best team in baseball. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning and was close to speechless after the game.

Burr, though — that’s right, the White Sox relief-pitching tandem of the future is made up of Hamilton and Burr; the sound you hear is history buffs and musical aficionados simultaneously swooning — believes he was the one with more nerves in that situation.

“It was fun,” he said. “I felt more nervous for him than he was. He went out there and did what he’s done all year. He attacked guys. He didn’t punch anybody out, which I’m sure he was upset about, secretly. That’s how he is, he wants to go out there and strike out the world, which we all want to do.

“Watching him out there and seeing his dream come true, that was awesome. Since I got traded over last August, he’s probably been one of my better friends in the organization, so for us to be up here at the same time, it’s everything we talked about since the first day I became a White Sock. We wanted to do this together, be those guys in the bullpen.”

Frare is obviously a more recent addition to that plan, but he’s just as excited to be a part of the White Sox rebuild — mostly because of the opportunity he’s getting to be a part of the team’s long-term plans, something he didn’t think was going to happen with his previous organization.

“Didn’t really expect to be traded or anything like that, didn’t see it coming, and I got traded,” he said. “I’m very happy that I did, I feel very blessed that I’ve been given an opportunity that I felt like I wasn’t getting.

“The Yankees, we had three lefties in Double-A, all of us were shoving. Us combined, we had like a 1.50 ERA in June. And only one of us moved up and I’ve gotten traded, and the other one is still in Double-A. And so it’s just crazy to see if the other one that was in Double-A was traded, I would still be in Double-A with the Yankees. And it’s just crazy to see. I’m in a big-league locker room.

“It’s really cool that they’re considering me to be a part of their future, and I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of that future.”

All these guys — including Aaron Bummer, who pitched plenty earlier this season with the big league club and was again added to the major league roster Saturday — have that opportunity to be a part of that future, one that looks oh so bright on the South Side. If they can take advantage of the opportunity, this could very well be the core of that bullpen of the future, the one that is hoped to be closing out games for a perennial contender.

“It’s a dream come true. Just to get an opportunity to be here is something you work for your whole life,” Burr said. “It’s incredibly fun, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity. But at the same time, you’re here now. What are we going to do to stay here? And what are we going to do to get this team where it needs to be?”

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