Belinelli's big night has ripple effect

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Belinelli's big night has ripple effect

CLEVELANDThis is how you know Marco Belinelli had a good night Tuesday: Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau subbed out Luol Deng, in the first quarter, in order to leave Belinelli, who scored 12 in the opening period and 23 on the evening, in the game.Marco, I thought, had a pretty good rhythm going and he had the hot hand, so we went the other way on that, Thibodeau said of his decision to put reserve swingman Jimmy Butler in the game for Deng, the NBAs minutes-per-game leader entering the evening, instead of Belinelli. I thought Marco was terrific.Hes been playing well. He had extended minutes, that was the biggest difference. I thought he played hard. He scored different ways, he got to the free-throw line, posted up, catch-and-shoot and I thought his teammates were searching him out, too, which was playing smart. You want to have a balance. You want to be inside-out, so we wanted to get our ball movement going. So, we felt that was the most important thing and hes a very good catch-and-shoot player, so we tried to play off that some, continued the coach, before delving into why he believed the Italian free-agent acquisition would eventually break out of his early-season slump. Because of what hes done in the league. You have an idea because hes already proven that, so you know that its a matter of time and I think that each day and each game hes gotten more comfortable, so I thought he played very, very well.Belinellis teammates also never wavered about the backup shooting guards ability, despite his woes in adjusting to a new system.I think it was huge. Even in the beginning of the year, hes somebody who works really hard on his game and never got discouraged, kept playing hard and you see that as a player, Joakim Noah said. As somebody whos passionate about the game, Im happy that its paying off for him.Deng added: Its really good. Marco played great tonight. First quarter, came out, he was aggressive, stayed aggressive, made some big plays. But we knew Marco could play. Hes been struggling a little bit finding his rhythm and hopefully this will help him find his rhythm until Rip comes back.When he comes off the bench, hell be comfortable with what hes doing and now hes getting more minutes.Belinelli himself attempted to deflect all the attention he was getting and instead focused on the team getting back to winning.It was a good game for us, he said. I think we played a great first quarter and we played together on offense and defense. I think thats whats important, especially after the game yesterday. It was a tough loss for us, so winning a game like tonight was important for everybody.It was good tonight, Belinelli continued. My teammates were ready to find me, so that was good. Just continuing this way. Its important for us to play together like tonight, run on fast breaks, try to score each basket and play good defense.I think it was important for me, he went on to say. First of all, just working, working and working.New team, new organization for us, for me especially, so just be ready to play, be aggressive every time. Thats the way that weve got to play. Tough, tough, tough.As for Deng, he still ended up logging over 42 minutes of playing time, but the All-Star felt that the early breather helped him, especially coming in a back-to-back contest. A 22-point scorer on the night, the ironman used his rare time on the sidelines to crack wise.When I went and sat on the bench, watching the game, I just told the guys, So this is what you all do at this time? No, but it was cool, he said. I think Coach realized that it was a tough game last night, I played a lot of minutes and quick turnaround. So, he realized that, gave me a quick rest early and that actually helped me a lot.

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

The majority of the talk surrounding Tuesday night's pitching matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field will be focused on the guy pitching against the White Sox.

Chris Sale returned to the South Side for the first time since being traded to the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, and he'll take the mound against his former teammates Tuesday. But the White Sox, who traded away one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be sending another All-Star hurler to the mound to oppose Sale.

Jose Quintana gets the ball for the White Sox, and while the attention will be squarely on Sale — and the emotions he does or does not show and the reaction he receives from the fans — Quintana will have his own emotional roller coaster going on, pitching against a guy who served as a mentor of sorts for the first five seasons of his career.

"Throwing on the same day will be a different feeling for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling watching him go against me after the last four years when he was my teammate. We talked last night. He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town. I can’t wait to see you guys.’ So I’m excited to play against him."

Sale had a few years on Quintana in major league service, but the duo looked like they would be a near-untouchable 1-2 combo at the front of the White Sox pitching rotation for years to come.

They both represented the White Sox at the All-Star Game last season and both finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

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Sale was shipped to the Red Sox to start the White Sox rebuilding effort, breaking up that duo leading the staff. But as is often the case, it's not the performances and the statistics that Quintana misses the most about Sale but rather the qualities he brought as a teammate.

"I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball," Quintana said. "We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus.

"I miss him. He was one of my best teammates ever that I played with. I understand it was part of the game. It’s a business and that happens. ... I miss his energy. We have a lot of guys here with energy too, but I miss the energy he had every time we talked in the dugout, watching the game."

Sale is having one of the best campaigns of any pitcher in baseball through the season's first two months. And while Quintana's start has been shaky at times, he's still the White Sox ace. It's that standing, though, that has had his name the subject of plenty of trade rumors during the offseason, spring training and since Opening Day. There is an expectation, warranted or not, that he will soon join Sale in departing the White Sox for a big prospect haul.

Until then, though, Quintana is taking over for Sale as the team's No. 1. The two old mates will go head to head Tuesday night in a monumental matchup, and Quintana is already projecting that focus he learned from Sale.

"I have just one game, and I have my focus on throwing the ball well for my team, to get a 'W.' That’s my focus every time, to do my job," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling because I’m pitching against him, but I don’t want to pay attention to the other team. I just want to do my job."

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Though he had a “couple blips on the radar,” including a few high-profile instances last season, Chris Sale has no regrets about his White Sox tenure.

The former pitcher returned to Guaranteed Rate Field as an opponent for the first time on Monday morning and said the majority of his White Sox memories are fond. The five-time All-Star takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night in a highly anticipated matchup against former teammate Jose Quintana. Despite an, at times, intense final campaign that included a five-game suspension imposed by the club for destruction of team property, Sale wouldn’t change anything about his six seasons with the White Sox.

“It got me to where I am today,” Sale said. “Can't change the past, just try to become better in the future. Appreciative of my time here, the people I met here, the relationships I built, most of the things I did here, too. I'm appreciative of everybody involved that got me to this point right here. Without a lot of people in this building I wouldn't be sitting here right now, that's for sure.”

Sale’s current seat is atop the world.

Not only does he pitch for a perennial contender at “buzzing” Fenway Park, Sale has thrived. He’s 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 73 innings over 10 starts. During those 10 turns Sale tied the major league record he already shared with Pedro Martinez with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts.

It’s all part of a transition he has found easier than he expected. Sale spent spring training at home because the Red Sox train in Florida. He also has liked working with Boston pitching coach Carl Willis and appreciates a fresh set of eyes.

“It wasn’t as crazy as I thought,” Sale said. “Boston has been nothing but great to me.”

If Sale holds any ill will toward the White Sox front office, he wasn’t letting on.

The 2010 first-round draft pick is still highly thought of within the White Sox clubhouse and known as a great teammate. Quintana and James Shields both called Sale one of the best teammates they’ve played with in their careers. Nate Jones described Sale as a “model citizen” who stood up for what he believed in. Those beliefs led to Sale erupting twice publicly during the 2016 campaign, including a lengthy rant in spring training directed at executive vice president Kenny Williams after Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement. In July, Sale objected to the team wearing throwback uniforms and cut them to pieces during batting practice, which led to a five-game suspension for insubordination.

[MORE: Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with']

But Sale sounds as if he has moved on.

“There's no hard feelings,” Sale said.

He admits there could be a few strange moments on Tuesday night when he sets foot on the mound. Sale had already experienced some abnormal emotions when he set foot in the building he called home for seven seasons for the first time since last October. Aside from a brief visit following a 2015 brawl with the Kansas City Royals, Sale set foot in the visiting clubhouse for the first time -- “a little longer walk,” he said. He wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more in store when he faces some former teammates on Tuesday.

“It's going to be hard not to crack a couple of smiles out there, just because I spent a lot of time with these guys,” Sale said. “These guys were my teammates for a handful of years, some of them. We've had some good times together so it would be hard not to smile out there.”

Sale looks forward to Tuesday’s atmosphere and has thought about how he’ll be received by White Sox fans. He said he feels like he run into more White Sox fans since he’s left than when he played on the South Side. While he’ll be a little nervous, Sale said he expects he’ll have fun with the experience.

“I just want to let everyone know that I appreciated my time here,” Sale said. “There’s a couple of blips on the radar amongst a lot of really good times. So more times than not it was great. I appreciated it.  I always had good teammates. I always had a great coaching staff. I’m appreciative of that so I don’t want to lose sight of that.”