Ballantini: Sale's first save is a matter of trust

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Ballantini: Sale's first save is a matter of trust

Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010
7:40 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

BOSTON Lost in the Paul Konerko dramatics, the Manny Ramirez braids and the Freddy Garcia cranky back was a milestone for a Chicago White Sox player destined to make a much bigger impact on the team than those three stars.

It was Chris Sale earning his first career save after hurling a scoreless ninth in Chicagos 6-4 win in Cleveland on Wednesday. The win earned a sweep of the Wahoos and crucial momentum heading into a weekend series against the similarly playoff-pushing Boston Red Sox.

Awesome, said White Sox manger Ozzie Guillen of Sales save, notched in his 10th career game. I was a little nervous and concerned because we put this kid in a spot he never had been, but we had a lot of confidence to put him in that situation. He handled it pretty good.

Earning a save in the first game he ever finished is just another benchmark passed by the lefty fireballer whos yet to suffer a setback in this, his first professional season. Not yet three months since being drafted, Sale is already arguably the most important pitcher in the White Sox organization, a versatile pitcher who projects as a starter but has proven adept in relief as well.

Theres a guy trying to hit the baseball and youre trying to get him out, regardless of whether youre throwing the first pitch of the game, the 80th pitch of the game or the last pitch of the game, Sale said after Wednesdays win. You still have to throw the ball to the mitt and get the guy out. Its all the same game, and thats the thought I try to take out there all the time.

Before Wednesdays game, Guillen forecasted brighter lights on Sale in comments addressing the anticipated return of mainstay lefthander Matt Thornton from the disabled list on Friday.

The funny thing about Thorntons DL stint is that now I know we can use Sale in any situation, he said. Before, I was kind of worried about using him in the eighth or the ninth inning because it was always Thornton. Now, if Thornton needs a day off I will be more secure and have more flexibility with Sale because I know he can get people out, too.

Sale has compiled a 0.90 ERA so far with the White Sox, with an outrageous K9 rate of 14.4. But not until Wednesday did the lifelong starter have a shot at a save. Of course, after whiffing leadoff batter Jason Donald on five fastballs, ranging from 87 to 97 mph, Sale almost lost his shot at finishing the game. The rookie walked his next two hitters, the second free pass to Michael Brantley coming on four straight pitches.

I lost the fastball for a hitter or so, Sale said. White Sox catcher Ramon Castro came out and was just like, Hey, Im not going to say anything to you, just giving you some time, lets go, lets do this. And from there on I was like, All right, lets go, lets get the save, lets get out of here, we need the sweep, we need these games. And I just went out there and threw the ball.

From the moment he first used Sale, a month ago vs. the Baltimore Orioles, Guillen has been wowed by the rookies fearlessness.

This kid has a chance to be great, Guillen said Wednesday. His presence on the mound is very positive, and thats why he has the chance to become a pretty good pitcher.

Being placed on the fast track to his managers trust is an honor not lost on the 21-year-old.

Its greatdefinitely a lot of satisfaction there, Sale said of securing a significant role in the Chicago bullpen. Its awesome, not just getting up to the majors so quick but being here for such a short amount of time but Guillen having the confidence in me to save a two-run ballgame.

Sale has also proven a quick read of his tempestuous manager, so hes not surprised to be thrown out into any relief situation with the White Sox, in spite of never having relieved before in his career.

We all know Ozzie, hes not gonna wait to do anything, Sale said. They have the trust in me and are confident to throw me out there in any situation.

And as for the fact that he could be a member of the White Soxs starting rotation as early as 2011 and thus might not get a chance for many more saves, Sale was happy that his first career save is crossed off his to-do list.

There it is, exactly, I got a save he said, laughing. One thing I dont have to worry about doing in the future.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Lucas Giolito knows if he had performed better in 2016 he wouldn’t have endured the season from travel hell. 

Instead, the top pitching prospect in baseball struggled with consistency in the big leagues and the Washington Nationals constantly shuffled him around. Giolito — one of three pitchers acquired in the Adam Eaton trade in December and MLB.com’s 11th-ranked prospect — was moved eight different times throughout the Nationals organization last season. 

More irritated by his inability to pitch well for a team in a pennant race, the tall right-hander understands why he spent much of last season on the go. But it’s also one of the main reasons why Giolito, who is likely to begin the 2017 season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Charlotte, is excited for a fresh start with the White Sox.

“It was frustrating because I knew if you get up there and pitch well I can stay, but I didn’t,” Giolito said. “I wanted to help the team win. That’s really all I wanted to do. And all my starts, aside from my debut, which got cut short by the rain, I did not give the team a chance to win. So rightfully so I got sent down. But yeah, it’s frustrating. 

“At the same time, with this club I know there might be a little more leeway. I know they might allow younger guys more time to settle in, at least from what I’ve seen.”

The White Sox have made no secret about their plans to rebuild. Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are four of the seven prospects acquired in December whom the White Sox hope to build around. 

General manager Rick Hahn has made it increasingly clear that player development is the team’s top priority.

“At this point going forward we’re really not going to have anyone in Chicago until they’ve answered any questions we’ve had for them at the minor league level and we feel they’re ready to succeed,” Hahn said last month at SoxFest. 

And once those players arrive, they’ll be given ample opportunities to prove whether or not they belong. The routine will be normal with regular turns in the rotation rather than spot starts here and there. 

The team’s mindset is in stark contrast with Washington, which has been in win-now mode for the past few seasons. Whenever the Nationals called upon Giolito, who hadn’t pitched above Double-A Harrisburg before last June, they needed him to fill in for a rotation that only had three pitchers make more than 25 starts.

[MORE: Lighter Avisail Garcia wants to show White Sox his best]

Giolito pitched four scoreless innings in a rain-shortened MLB debut on June 28 and then didn’t pitch again until July 7. With Stephen Strasburg back in the rotation, the Nationals then sent Giolito to Single-A Hagerstown so he could get another turn before the All-Star break. Then it was on to Triple-A Syracuse for one start and back to Washington for another. 

After he struggled in that outing, Giolito spent a month at Syracuse, returned to the bigs to struggle again on Aug. 28 against Colorado, and went back to Triple-A for one more. Finally, Giolito returned to Washington on Sept. 7 and stayed the rest of the season, though he only pitched twice in a month. In six big league games (four starts), Giolito had a 6.75 ERA. 

The up-and-down nature of Giolito’s season prompted MLB.com’s Jim Callis to write: “I also don't think the Nationals handled him very well last season, calling him to Washington on five separate occasions but never letting him take consecutive turns in the rotation, as well as having him change teams nine times.”

Giolito remembers a couple of small planes back and forth from Washington to Syracuse. He also drove a few times because it was so close. 

“All sorts of ways of moving around,” he said.

It’s also treatment that’s normally reserved for a Four-A pitcher who has options to burn rather than a top prospect trying to find stability.

Giolito — who was drafted 16th overall in the 2012 draft out of high school — thought some of his struggles were related to poor mechanics and getting away from what had made him successful. The 6-foot-6 pitcher said he tried to simplify his mechanics this winter in order to allow the ball to leave his hand more freely and easily. 

Giolito is pleased with the results so far. His main goals early in camp have been commanding his fastball low and away to right-hander hitters and learning how to throw his curveball for a called strike.

“It’s coming out very good,” Giolito said. “Much better than last year. I made a lot of positive changes.

“The time in the big leagues was definitely fun. But going up and down a lot can be like a grind. Getting on the plane, doing this, you’re pitching the next day. You have to be able to try and stay level headed and focus on the next day or task at hand. But when you’re moving around a lot it can be difficult.”

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 prior to June 24's game against the Oakland Athletics, a deserving honor for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The left-hander compiled a 3.83 ERA and won 161 games during 12 seasons with the White Sox, and perhaps more impressively, he threw over 200 innings every year he was a full-time member of the team's starting rotation. 

So with the White Sox announcing Buehrle's number retirement ceremony for this summer, let's take a look back at the best games the St. Charles, Mo. native pitched with the White Sox. 

1. July 23, 2009: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:03

Buehrle's perfect game, complete with Dewayne Wise's legendary catch, sits at the top of mountain of Buehrle's historic achievements with the White Sox. This was a vintage Buehrle game, with him working quickly and getting plenty of weak contact. It just turned out that Tampa Bay couldn't get anyone on base in it.

2. April 18, 2007: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Texas. Time of game: 2:03

By game score, this was actually the best game Buehrle pitched in his career thanks to the two more strikeouts he had than in his perfect game. And in no-hitting the Rangers, Buehrle still faced the minimum — after walking Sammy Sosa, he picked off the former Cubs slugger. 

3. April 16, 2005: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K vs. Seattle. Time of game: 1:39

The 99-minute game might get lost in Buehrle's career thanks to his no-hitter and perfect game, but it's right up there in terms of how impressive it was. Not only did Buehrle set a career high in strikeouts against Seattle, but only one Mariners player got a hit that day (Ichiro, who naturally had all three). And it was the first — and still only — nine-inning game to be completed in under 100 minutes since 1984.

4. Aug. 3, 2001: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:12

Before Buehrle was an All-Star, World Series winner and no-hitter/perfect game thrower, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Devil Rays before Damian Rolls singled to break it up. This wasn't Buehrle's first great start of his career — that came in a three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on May 26, 2001 — but it stood up for a decade and a half as one of the best games he pitched in the majors. 

5. July 21, 2004: 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Cleveland. Time of game: 2:31

This was another brush with perfection for Buehrle, who only allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Omar Vizquel (he got Matt Lawton to hit into a double play after, allowing him to face the minimum for the first time in his career). This is the longest game in Buehrle's top five thanks to the White Sox blasting Cliff Lee and the Indians for 14 runs, but even then, barely over two and a half hours was a relatively brisk pace.