Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

579810.png

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.

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia will both return to the White Sox in 2017.

The team announced it reached deals with both players shortly before Friday’s 7 p.m. CST nontender deadline. Lawrie will earn $3.5 million next season and Garcia received a one-year deal for $3 million.

The club didn’t tender a contract to right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, which leaves its 40-man roster at 38.

Acquired last December for a pair of minor leaguers, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Lawrie produced 0.9 f-WAR when he suffered what then-manager Robin Ventura described a “tricky” injury on July 21. Despite numerous tests and a lengthy rehab, Lawrie never returned to the field and was frustrated by the experience. Last month, Lawrie tweeted that he believes the cause of his injury was wearing orthotics for the first time in his career.

He was projected to earn $5.1 million, according to MLBTraderumors.com and earned $4.125 million in 2016.

Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 453 plate appearances over 120 games. The projected salary for Garcia, arb-eligible for the first time, was $3.4 million.

The team also offered contracts to Miguel Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, who are eligible for free agency in 2018, first baseman Jose Abreu and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, among others.

The White Sox have until mid-January to reach an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players. If they haven’t, both sides submit figures for arbitration cases, which are then heard throughout February.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

Crain's Chicago Business released its latest 40 under 40 project and White Sox announcer Jason Benetti made this year's list.

The 33-year-old just finished his first season with the White Sox as play-by-play announcer, working the home games at U.S. Cellular Field (before it was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field last month) alongside Steve Stone as longtime broadcaster Hawk Harrelson saw his workload reduced to mostly road games.

Benetti quickly became a fan favorite among Chicagoans on CSN and other networks in 2016 and his cerebral palsy became more of a backstory, with his work alongside Stone and his affable sense of humor taking center stage instead.

Among other topics, Benetti discussed how he approaches his job of broadcasting for the team he grew up rooting for:

Law school taught me that there are always two sides of the argument. I see it from the Sox prism, but I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that, if the Sox lose, the world’s over anymore. That first game, I was like, “All right, it’s just a game.” And then Avi Garcia hits a homer late in the game against the Indians and I call it like I would call it with a little more. And as the ball cleared the fence, when it was rolling around, I got a slight tear in my eye. And I was like, “What’s that?”

Check out the entire interview with Benetti and the full list at ChicagoBusiness.com.