Crain advancing at White Sox camp, ready to face hitters

Shoulder issues have kept reliever out of game action since 2013 season

Crain advancing at White Sox camp, ready to face hitters

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Friday was an unofficial graduation day for Jesse Crain at Camelback Ranch, as the right-handed reliever finished off his third bullpen session this week and seventh time off the mound since Spring Training began.

Crain moves on to live batting practice at the start of next week, getting his first look at hitters.

"Another step today," said Crain, who has not thrown in an actual game since June 29, 2013, with the White Sox, as he works his way back from shoulder issues. "I felt like I let it go a little more today, and I'm ready for the next step."

"He's doing nothing but climbing," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "It's visible. We're excited."

Excited, but certainly not getting ahead of themselves in regards to a return. One of the reasons Crain, 33, picked the White Sox is their past relationship and knowledge of each other. Though Crain told MLB.com on Thursday that he plans to get in a game before Spring Training ends, he certainly won't rush if matters aren't 100 percent right, and neither will the White Sox.

One thing seems fairly certain, based on that past history: When Crain is game-ready, he won't need much Cactus League or Minor League action to be big league ready. In 2013, Crain threw four games before the season after being sidelined for much of camp by a hip strain. He made a franchise-record 29 straight scoreless appearances that season.

"That's what Cooper was telling me when he was recruiting me: 'We know what you need in spring. That's one inning,'" said a smiling Crain, who threw every variety of his pitches Friday. "They know what I can do and know what I need to be ready.

"I'm just trying to stay in control. When I was younger, I would go out and just want to fire the ball from the first bullpen on. I probably still want to do that. I just know I can't do that yet. I've been slowly progressing and getting stronger each time, and it's a formula that has worked so far."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.