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03/31/08 9:25 PM ET

Masset shows he belongs in first outing

Reliever's strong effort gives White Sox a fighting chance

CLEVELAND -- Nick Masset's short leash just might have grown a little longer during Cleveland's 10-8 victory over the White Sox on Monday.

In fact, the White Sox literally had no chance to pull off their impressive five-run rally against C.C. Sabathia at Progressive Field if not for Masset's sparkling relief work. The right-hander threw 50 pitches, covering 4 1/3 scoreless innings, after replacing a shell-shocked Mark Buehrle during a seven-run second inning.

Masset struck out four, didn't issue a walk and would have been perfect if not for two Franklin Gutierrez singles. The right-hander was selected as the team's 25th man on Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., beating out Ehren Wasserman, who appeared to outpitch Masset.

But the White Sox didn't want to lose Masset, who is out of options and could have declared himself a free agent if he were sent down. They believed in his ability, and Masset rewarded that belief against the Indians.

"Everyone has something to prove," Masset said. "You have to go out there and compete every day. I had a little more extra to prove."

Spring Training produced a 7.06 ERA for Masset over seven games, but he basically went out and tried to prepare himself for the season during that time in Arizona. Masset also benefited from a little more humidity in Cleveland, helping his slider and sinker move more.

Prior to the game, both general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen talked about certain players finding themselves on short leashes without using those exact words. Basically, the White Sox have enough talent depth at the Minor League level where they won't wait long to replace a struggling big leaguer on the bubble.

The same theory holds true for a veteran such as second baseman Juan Uribe, who struck out three times Monday before his eighth-inning double. Alexei Ramirez, the Cuban Missile, started his Major League career with three strikeouts over four hitless at-bats.

Of course, judging a 162-game season based on a control group of one afternoon makes as much sense as naming Masset a Cy Young candidate following Monday's effort. Nonetheless, Masset showed he belonged, even if there were doubters as the team broke camp.

"I was worried making that decision at the end of Spring Training, but he came out and did a tremendous job," said Guillen of Masset. "He kept us in the game and he made big pitches to guys in big situations."

Those pitches and Masset's Opening Day statement were made following a pitcher in Buehrle, whose trademark is working deep and consistently into games.

"You can't bring your 'A' stuff every time you go out and pitch," said Masset of Buehrle. "You are going to get hit around no matter who you are. He was attacking hitters, but the ball wasn't where he wanted it every time.

"At the same time, I'm just going out there every day to do what I can to keep us in the game and compete and get people out," Masset added.

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