Jesse Crain can't help it: Pitching for the White Sox is going to be a bit odd for a reliever who has played his entire seven-year career for AL Central rival Minnesota.
Of course, Crain said, the Twins didn't make an effort to keep him before he signed three-year, $13-million US offer with Chicago.
"It's going to be weird," he said Monday. "I came up with the Twins. I've never been anywhere else. I'm very good friends with the players over there. [So] I'm going to look at it as a challenge. It's going to be fun to go back there and face them."
Crain, a 29-year-old right-hander born in Toronto, went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 71 appearances in 2010 while giving up 23 earned runs and striking out 62 batters. Between June 10 and Aug. 31, he had a 0.28 ERA in 35 games, including a streak of 21 scoreless appearances (20 innings).
He is expected to help fill a hole left by the departure of former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, who has agreed to a $12-million US, two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, a deal still in the process of being finalized.
Jenks saved 27 games last season but lost his closing job at the end of the year when he struggled with injuries. He was second in White Sox history with 173 saves since joining Chicago mid-season in 2005 and helping the club win its first World Series since 1917.
Crain had been talking to Colorado and Boston before the White Sox made an offer last week.
"It actually came together really quick," he said. "We were contacted by a lot of teams after I became a free agent ... We had been negotiating a lot with the Rockies and some with the Red Sox and [the White Sox] called on a Tuesday we agreed to terms on Wednesday."
Terms announced by the White Sox call for Crain to earn $4 million in 2011 and $4.5 million each in 2012 and 2013.
"It wasn't something that I was expecting, but I'm real excited about it," he said. "I can't wait to pitch. I think we're going to have a great team."
Chicago has done some serious spending this off-season after finishing second to Minnesota in the AL Central at 88-74. In addition to Adam Dunn's $56 million, four-year contract, catcher A.J. Pierzynski stayed for an $8 million, two-year deal and team captain Paul Konerko agreed to a $37.5 million, three-year contract.
In the meantime, Crain said he's not sure how the Twins will fill a hole caused by his departure.
"I'm not exactly sure what direction they're going. They've always been a team that's built from within," he said. "They like to find guys and bring them up through their farm system. With that being said, I'm not sure who's going to come up."
The Twins saw six relievers become free agents, including Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes. Minnesota has agreed to a one-year, $625,000 deal with Pat Neshek, who spent much of last season in the minors after elbow surgery.
Four-time all-star closer Joe Nathan, who missed last season following elbow ligament replacement surgery, is expected to return in 2011.