Get the starting pitching to keep the opposition close, allow the patient but powerful offense a chance to get into the soft middle of the bullpen and then give the baseball to Scott Linebrink and closer Bobby Jenks with a lead. Linebrink worked the eighth and Jenks pitched the ninth in each of the team's first three victories, but it's a pattern that can't play out on a daily basis at this early stage of the season.
"I've been four and I might have been five at some point," said Linebrink of the most consecutive days in a row that he has worked. "To start the year like that, you want to be a little bit careful because you haven't had that kind of workload in Spring Training. The most I worked there was two in a row. We have to be smart about it."
"I don't want to overuse them," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of the back end of his bullpen, which includes three games apiece from Boone Logan and Octavio Dotel. "But I got to get the guys out there to help them. [Mike] MacDougal, [Nick] Masset, [Matt] Thornton, they have to help the rest of the guys. I'm not afraid to bring them in and they have to do the job, too."
Linebrink pitched as part of arguably baseball's best bullpen last year in San Diego, so he knows a little bit about a cohesive, talented unit -- even with just six games off the schedule. The right-handed setup man likes what he sees from the White Sox relief corps, in regard to the stuff it collectively possesses and the different looks provided by the seven relievers to throw off hitters.
But Linebrink also understands the bullpen is only as good as its next lead to protect.
"The past history doesn't matter a hill of beans," Linebrink said. "We have guys down there who have had a lot of success for a lot of years, but it doesn't matter. We have to do it this year."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.