Communication key as Sox 'pen manages workload

Bullpen feels prepared, but has trust among coaches to ask for day off if necessary

Communication key as Sox 'pen manages workload

CHICAGO -- The fact that Nate Jones and Zach Duke already had appeared in three games entering Saturday afternoon means the White Sox have been close late or in a position to win for much of the 2016 season's first week.

With one day off in April coming Tuesday, followed by 19 games in 19 days, the late-inning workload has the potential to get a bit overwhelming for these relievers if all continues to go well. But they are prepared and hoping for consistent appearances.

"That's why we go back to back during spring and go every other day and things like that," Jones said. "This is where our strength and conditioning, this is where AT [director of conditioning Allen Thomas] plays a big role. He prepares our bodies to go through this and go through it healthy.

"We train hard in the offseason. We train hard in Spring Training just so we can do this. Hopefully, that means we are winning ballgames and getting a lead in the [American League] Central."

Jones doesn't feel much of a difference between working a large number of games early vs. later in the season with the innings and pitches piling up. Of course, the pitchers are a bit more rested and fresh coming out of Spring Training.

Workouts can be altered by these pitchers depending on how their bodies feel on a day-to-day basis.

"If I'm coming in a little bit tired, I might go a little bit easier on the weights or the exercises or cut back a little bit and just adjust," Jones said.

A strong line of communication exists between the pitchers and pitching coach Don Cooper, bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen and manager Robin Ventura, so if a day off is needed, there's no hesitancy to ask.

"They are great about checking on us," Jones said. "If we say we need a day because we are feeling a little sore, they will try to get us that day and be ready to go the next."

"You have to be able to trust, to come in and say you might need a day without us thinking you don't need a day," Ventura said. "Early on, we can use them that way just because they've had enough rest, but you get into the season and it depends on how much usage they've had. You have to spread it around."

One benefit of Friday's loss was a day off for Jones, Duke and closer David Robertson. Duke's career high for games stands at 74, Jones' high mark is 70, and Robertson checks in at 70, as well.

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