Sale wants to pitch 200 innings as a starter

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Sale wants to pitch 200 innings as a starter

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Near the end of last season, Chris Sale was sitting at a lunchroom table inside the White Sox clubhouse when pitching coach Don Cooper gave him the news.

Youre going to join the starting rotation next season, Cooper said.

What was Sales initial thought?

Can I get one in before the season ended? I was trying to weasel my way into getting a start late in the year, Sale admitted in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. He entertained it for maybe a day or two, but it just didnt work out. Needless to say, Im really excited to take this on.

The 22-year-old lefty with a rail-thin body and fireballing arm is preparing for the biggest challenge of his professional career: moving from being a reliever to a starter, and even more imposing, filling the spot in the rotation left by Mark Buehrle, arguably the most dependable starter in the history of the White Sox franchise. In his first 11 full seasons in the majors, Buehrle topped the 200-inning mark every year, starting more games (362) than any other pitcher in baseball during that time.

After pitching just 104 13 innings combined the last two seasons in the majors and minors, no one expects Sale to throw 200 innings in 2012.

That is, no one but Chris Sale.

Its not a matter of whether I think I can. I want to, said Sale. Thats something that I want to push for because thats what this team needs. I dont really like to set goals or live up to expectations and stuff because I tried doing that last year and I failed miserably.

Hailed by fans and media as the second-coming after his spectacular debut at the end of the 2010 season, Sale started to believe the hype when the White Sox broke camp last spring. However, the phenom quickly came back down to Earth after getting pummeled in April and May, posting a 5.31 ERA.

The first couple months I was just struggling miserably, both physically and mentally. Going out there getting rocked for an inning, giving up runs, walking guys and stuff like that. It really kind of bothered me, Sale said. I let it all get to me. Im so passionate about pitching. This is something Ive done my entire life. This is really the one thing that Im good at. For me to go out there and not succeed like I wanted to, it was killing me.

Fortunately for Sale, he received some great advice from his teammates and coaches.

Some of the guys were just like, Hey its over. Youre not going to go back and fix that. Focus on what you need to do now. Clear your mind. Dont think about that stuff because any negative energy coming towards you, its a waste. Talking with Coop, he really kind of led me through this last year. I was very fortunate for that and very thankful for that.

Those same pitchers who came to his emotional rescue are amazed by Sales freakish ability, even his fellow starters -- great talents of their own whose jaws drop when they watch him pitch.

He definitely has the best stuff on our team, said Gavin Floyd, who held that title until Sale arrived. When he first came up, they all had the scouting report on him and I looked in the other dugout and they were like, Look at this guy. Then all of sudden you see the radar and the miles per hour, and they all started laughing. Theyre like, Man, we never expected that out of this guy.

Floyds praise for Sale is actually dwarfed by the words coming from 2007 Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy.

Chris Sale is as good as anybody that I have ever played with as far as his raw, physical talent, said Peavy, who has played with the likes of Greg Maddux, Trevor Hoffman, David Wells and Heath Bell.

When I told Sale about Peavys compliment, he was floored by it.

Thats one of the best compliments Ive ever gotten, Sale said. Jakes a great guy and I know hes worked real hard to get back healthy. Im pretty sure hes tired of talking about it. Hes a warrior out there. Hes a guy that I look up to. For him to say those things about me is pretty special.

To prepare his body for the endurance needed to be a full-time starter in the majors, Sale added swimming to his workout routine, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were both excellent swimmers back in the day. In fact, Sales dad was an All-American swimmer at Daytona Beach Community College and still owns records from their hometown of Lakeland, Fla.

He actually got on me the other day because he saw where I was talking about how he showed me swimming, and I called him an old man, Sale said. He goes, Next time youre at home, this old man will school you in the pool! He didnt much like that.

Is Chris a good swimmer?

I can float.

And when he finished with his strenuous aquatic workouts Chris was relieved...because he could eat.

I came home and crushed food every time, Sale said. Something about getting in a pool, you just automatically get hungry.

Taking a glance at his 170-pound beanpole body, it sure didnt look like it.

I gained about 20 pounds this offseason, and for some reason I lost it all before I came out here, joked Sale. Thats my story and Im sticking to it.

While his body might not carry that much weight, his stuff just might carry the White Sox rotation for years to come.

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox continue series with Mariners tonight on CSN

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox continue series with Mariners tonight on CSN

The White Sox continue their series against the Seattle Mariners, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (10-9, 2.84 ERA) vs. Ariel Miranda (1-0, 5.49 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.

When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”

“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”

Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.

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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.

Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.

“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”