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Sox agree to terms with Hermanson
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12/08/2004 6:47 PM ET
Sox agree to terms with Hermanson
Giants closer to join White Sox bullpen
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Dustin Hermanson posted a 6-9 record with a 4.53 ERA for the Giants in 2004. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

CHICAGO -- Dustin Hermanson began the current offseason in search of a closer's role.

He liked the "juice of the ninth inning," according to White Sox general manager Ken Williams.

"But the eighth innings can be just as important," added Williams during a Wednesday afternoon conference call to announce the signing of the former San Francisco Giants closer to a two-year, $5.5 million contract with a club option for 2007.

Hermanson, who turns 32 on Dec. 21, will be paid $2 million in 2005 and $3 million in 2006. The White Sox hold an option for 2007 at $3.5 million, with a buyout of $500,000.

The addition of the right-handed Hermanson, who split his 2004 time with the Giants between the closer's role and the starting rotation, basically leaves one clear-cut vacancy on the White Sox's pitching staff at the fifth starter's slot. A bullpen comprised of closer Shingo Takatsu, Cliff Politte, Damaso Marte, Hermanson and second-year hurlers Neal Cotts and Jon Adkins give manager Ozzie Guillen a plethora of late-inning options.

"I'm sure the thought from Kenny is get another quality starter," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper regarding Hermanson's addition. "But in terms of our bullpen, we have our guys out there."

"One of the offseason goals of ours was to get another guy in the back of the bullpen that could close, but would initially serve as a setup guy to Shingo," Williams added. "(Hermanson) was our No. 1 target right out of the gate."

Hermanson finished 2004 with a 6-9 record and 4.53 ERA in 131 innings pitched. He began the season in the starting rotation, posting a 4-4 mark with a 4.59 ERA. That run included a no-hitter for 6 1/3 innings on July 23 at St. Louis and striking out a season-high 11 on July 3 against Oakland.

But when the Giants needed a closer to stay in playoff contention, Hermanson was entrusted with that particular responsibility. From August until the season's end, the right-hander finished 2-5 with a 4.33 ERA and picked up 17 saves in 20 opportunities. He held opponents to a .224 average in relief.

This versatility provided by Hermanson also serves as an added bonus. If needed, he could step into the back end of the starting rotation.

"If you get another bullpen guy down the line and needed a starter, he's well equipped with four pitches and they are all plus pitches," Williams said.

"I've liked the guy's physical attributes that I've seen from afar in the past," Cooper added. "It looks like his niche is in the bullpen. I like the fire in his eyes and the emotion. I liked the life I saw out of this guy when he nailed down important games."

There could be one bullpen slot still remaining if the White Sox opt to go with seven relievers and 12 pitchers. That opening probably would go to a left-hander, meaning Arnie Munoz, recently acquired Kevin Walker and possibly even Scott Schoenweis could compete for the final job.

Schoeneweis, 31, earned $1.725 million in 2004 and is arbitration eligible, but Williams acknowledged Wednesday that he has not spoken to Schoeneweis' agent, Scott Boras, recently. Schoeneweis performed solidly in his return to the starting rotation before an injury to his pitching elbow shut him down.

Much like Hermanson, Schoeneweis is a pitcher Williams coveted for a couple of years before obtaining him.

"I would love to have Schoeney back, assuming the price tag fits in with what we are trying to do," Williams said. "We will get a better read on that as Dec. 20th approaches.

"There's no doubt if we had him, in the bullpen or if we looked toward him as the No. 5 guy, we would be in better shape. We have to see about the price tag."

Williams admitted that he was both surprised and concerned by some of the high salaries already drawn by free agent pitchers on the open market. It's less of a concern for the White Sox, with Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland anchoring the rotation.

Even if the starters stay intact, meaning Williams doesn't add another top-of-the-line pitcher as opposed to signing someone who simply would fit in at No. 5, he expressed confidence in Jason Grilli to produce more from No. 5 than any pitcher has in the last two years. Williams' concerns about the bullpen seem to have been answered.

Hermanson's new role for his sixth team in 10 years will start in the seventh and eighth innings. There's no telling where he will end up as the season progresses.

"He's satisfied to come here as a setup guy, being part of a team he can win with," said Williams of Hermanson, who was not offered arbitration by the Giants, meaning the White Sox will not lose a draft pick with the signing.

"But when Shingo and Damaso are not in for matchup reasons, he might be called upon to close," Williams added. "He is happy with the situation."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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