KANSAS CITY There are two ways to look at it: You can focus on how far Chris Sale has come in the last two years, or how much he still has to do in the second half.
Sale rocketed through the system after the White Sox took him with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft. It took only 11 games in the minors to go from Florida Gulf Coast University to the big leagues. Its not going to slow down.
There was Sale on Monday at Kauffman Stadium, taping the Top Ten Fun Facts about the All-Star Game for David Letterman. Sale followed Justin Verlander and Joe Mauer at No. 8: After the Home Run Derby, there's now a Weak Grounder to Third Derby.
It does get kind of crazy at times, Sale said Tuesday, but you kind of learn to deal with it and go along with it and just have fun with it.
Yes, the Late Show appearance was pretty sweet. But Sales Q rating is only going to increase if the White Sox continue to prove the experts wrong and stay in first place, and the left-hander with the nasty slider puts up more numbers (10-2, 2.19 ERA).
This will be the next frontier: Sale has already thrown 102.2 innings after accounting for 71 out of the bullpen last season.
Were just going to kind of play it by ear, Sale said, and just go on how I feel and how my stuff is. Well cross that bridge when we get there.
The White Sox never seem to get much love or hype from Baseball America and the prospect rankings. But they have now developed a 23-year-old frontline starter, and enough homegrown talent to come out of the All-Star break with a three-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central.
How Sale responds to the heat of a pennant race and how the White Sox protect their investment will be telling.
Jake Peavy has emerged from his own physical issues to return to the All-Star Game for the first time since his Cy Young season with the San Diego Padres in 2007. This is the underlying tension.
I understand Chris Sale has got to be looked after, Peavy said. Hes a prized possession for any organization to have. At the same time, when I look back and think about when I got into the league in 2003, my first full season, (and guys like Roy Oswalt), we were throwing around 200 innings.
For us to win, Chris Sale is going to have to start. Its going to be interesting to see how that plays out. Well just leave that up to the organization and what they feel is best. They certainly know. But the biggest thing comes down to him taking care of himself and his body.
There may be nothing more fragile or expensive than elite starting pitching. The Washington Nationals intend to shut down All-Star Stephen Strasburg in September. The Cubs dont have a hard limit, but they are targeting around 180 innings for Jeff Samardzija, who has a body that was built to play in the NFL. Sale is listed at 6-foot-6, 180 pounds.
Obviously, Im trying to do everything I can to put on weight, but its something that I dont think is in my control, Sale said. The main thing is just trying to stay strong and get my shoulder right and make sure everythings feeling good. (Its) getting stronger so I can do what I need to do for this team.
General manager Kenny Williams thinks big and likes to be aggressive. The Detroit Tigers appear to be gathering momentum and are only 3.5 games out. Maybe Kevin Youkilis was only the start for Williams.
Hes going to do what he has to do to help our team in whatever way, Sale said. Going and getting Youkilis was a big part of that. I dont mean having him on the field. Having him in that clubhouse, too, has made our team that much better. Hes fit right in and hes an unbelievable guy.