Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

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Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

Moving Chris Sale to the starting rotation absolutely is the right move for the White Sox. If Sale enjoys even moderate success as a starter, he'll provide a whole lot more value to the team than if he remained a dominant reliever.

But Sale still has to prove he can pitch as a starter. He doesn't have any professional experience as one, so a few things need to be monitored closely this spring to give us an early idea of whether or not he'll be successful.

Sale's slider is filthy, that much we know. He'll continue to terrorize left-handers with it, and it's not an easy pitch for righties to hit, either. But Sale leaned heavily on his slider in 2011, throwing it 36.4 percent of the time. Only one starter -- converted Texas reliever Alexi Ogando -- threw a higher rate of sliders last season.

It's possible Sale can keep throwing his slider at such a high rate, but expect him to use it with a little less frequency than he did in 2011.

He'll also have to dial his fastball back a bit velocity-wise, since he won't be able to go max-effort on every pitch as he was able to do out of the bullpen. That means he won't be able to blow hitters away as easily with his fastball, so he'll need to show good command of it in the low-to-mid 90's. There's a whole lot more room for error when you can whip a fastball in around 97 miles per hour.

Sale won't need a Mark Buehrle-level of command to succeed, but he'll have to be able to place his fastball inside and outside. There may be some bumps along the way, and perhaps Sale will allow a few home runs in spring training, but he should have a good opportunity to work out the kinks in March.

His changeup is the next key. Sale threw that pitch 11 percent of the time in 2011, using it more often early in counts -- although he would occasionally show it with two strikes.

It's not like Sale completely scrapped the pitch as a reliever, which is good. And according to Fangraphs' pitch values, it's been a very successful pitch when he's used it since coming to the majors.

Sale doesn't have to use his changeup more as a starter, but it couldn't hurt, especially against right-handed heavy lineups.

So when Sale's first spring outing rolls around, keep an eye on these four things: His fastball command, fastball velocity, slider use and changeup effectiveness. If all those factors mesh together, Sale has a chance to be an ace.

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

This season hasn’t exactly turned out the way the White Sox had hoped.

The White Sox took Major League Baseball by storm after beginning the season at 23-10, which led the American League Central by six games at the time.

But since then, the White Sox have been climbing an uphill battle. They lost 20 of their next 26 games and found themselves fighting to stay above .500.

The White Sox brought in reinforcements in an effort to get their season back on track, adding designated hitter Justin Morneau (via free agency), veteran pitcher James Shields (via trade from San Diego Padres) and 23-year-old shortstop Tim Anderson (Triple-A Charlotte). 

But the White Sox still couldn’t make things click.

“I think you learn how guys struggle and how they try and get out of it,” said manager Robin Ventura. “You see guys that continue to grind through it and try to find it. Some guys find it quicker than other guys. I think the biggest thing is their ability to grind through it.”

The White Sox were officially eliminated from the postseason last Friday and will finish with their fourth straight losing season.

What happens over the offseason remains a mystery. It’s uncertain how their opening roster will look like next season.

If little changes are made, Adam Eaton believes the White Sox can still be contenders in 2017.

“There is a lot of talent here,” Eaton said. “There are a lot of good baseball players in here. It’s not the year we thought. And I think with that exact quote, ‘It’s not the year that we thought,’ if we brought the guys back I think we might have the year we thought we would have.

“The camaraderie is great in here. It’s tough to say whether people will be leaving or whether additions will be added. I’m sure moves will be made. In the game of baseball, there’s never an offseason that’s quiet, I feel like. Whatever Rick (Hahn) and the organization sees would be more functional for this team to be better and more consistent on a day-to-day basis, then that’s what they see in the team.

“If I’m in those plans, great. If not, then it kind of stinks. But if they want me in this uniform next year, I’ll be proud to wear it and I’ll put everything I have on the field again like I did this year.”

Time will tell which direction the White Sox decide to go in. Will they continue to add immediate impact players and build around the same group? Make a few tweaks? Or perhaps even tear it all down and start from scratch?

One thing is for sure, it will be a busy offseason for the White Sox one way or another.

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If the White Sox decide to make any drastic changes like trade Chris Sale — who was a hot topic of discussion around the trade deadline — Eaton knows exactly what he'd do if they faced one another.

“Take the day off,” Eaton said. “No, I don’t want to give away too much because I hope I’m never on that side. Just see ball, hit ball. Be simple. Have a simple approach off him because he can make you look foolish at times. Just have a good competitive at-bat.

“But like I said, easier said than done. He’s made a lot of people look foolish. I hope I’ll never have to do that, to be honest with you. I’d love to be on his team for the rest of my life.”

Adam Eaton returns to White Sox lineup vs. Rays

Adam Eaton returns to White Sox lineup vs. Rays

Adam Eaton is back in the White Sox lineup in their contest against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night on CSN+.

Eaton will bat in the leadoff spot and play right field.

"It’s nice to be back in there and I’m excited," Eaton said prior to Tuesday night's game. "They played really well yesterday, so hopefully we can keep up that same intensity. As I’ve said, I’m excited to get back out there."

Manager Robin Ventura held Eaton out of the game on Monday night, saying that he still needed time to recuperate. But the White Sox outfielder is ready to go.

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Eaton left last week’s game against the Cleveland Indians after crashing into the wall while making a catch. He missed the next three games.

Eaton, who got the wind knocked out of him during the catch, took and passed concussion tests.