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

249746.jpg

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 Road Ahead: Facing Chris Sale and the Red Sox

White Sox Road Ahead: Facing Chris Sale and the Red Sox

It'll be tough for Chris Sale to be humble when he makes his return to Chicago and faces his old teammates on Tuesday, but he'll do his best.

The former White Sox ace will face off against his old team as a member of the Red Sox (coverage begins at 6:30 on CSN with White Sox Pregame Live) and Dan Hayes and Siera Santos discussed what the atmosphere will be like on this week's Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers. Sale has dominated in his first season in Boston, going 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA.

Sale met with the Chicago media on Monday morning, and Hayes said the biggest takeaway from that presser was just how much Sale appreciated his time in Chicago.

"I think the fact that he realizes how important this was, how much he grew up with the White Sox," Hayes said in the video above. "He talked about that at length. Obviously last year was a little bit of a rouigh year, there were quite a few incidents, he said there were some blips on the radar, but mostly (he) had good times here than (he) had bad times and he said it's what has made him who he is. and he realizes that he apprecaites what he was able to accomplish here. misses the fans buit he's also moved on and he's doing well with the white sox."

See what else Siera and Dan had to say in the video above.

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

The majority of the talk surrounding Tuesday night's pitching matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field will be focused on the guy pitching against the White Sox.

Chris Sale returned to the South Side for the first time since being traded to the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, and he'll take the mound against his former teammates Tuesday. But the White Sox, who traded away one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be sending another All-Star hurler to the mound to oppose Sale.

Jose Quintana gets the ball for the White Sox, and while the attention will be squarely on Sale — and the emotions he does or does not show and the reaction he receives from the fans — Quintana will have his own emotional roller coaster going on, pitching against a guy who served as a mentor of sorts for the first five seasons of his career.

"Throwing on the same day will be a different feeling for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling watching him go against me after the last four years when he was my teammate. We talked last night. He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town. I can’t wait to see you guys.’ So I’m excited to play against him."

Sale had a few years on Quintana in major league service, but the duo looked like they would be a near-untouchable 1-2 combo at the front of the White Sox pitching rotation for years to come.

They both represented the White Sox at the All-Star Game last season and both finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Sale was shipped to the Red Sox to start the White Sox rebuilding effort, breaking up that duo leading the staff. But as is often the case, it's not the performances and the statistics that Quintana misses the most about Sale but rather the qualities he brought as a teammate.

"I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball," Quintana said. "We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus.

"I miss him. He was one of my best teammates ever that I played with. I understand it was part of the game. It’s a business and that happens. ... I miss his energy. We have a lot of guys here with energy too, but I miss the energy he had every time we talked in the dugout, watching the game."

Sale is having one of the best campaigns of any pitcher in baseball through the season's first two months. And while Quintana's start has been shaky at times, he's still the White Sox ace. It's that standing, though, that has had his name the subject of plenty of trade rumors during the offseason, spring training and since Opening Day. There is an expectation, warranted or not, that he will soon join Sale in departing the White Sox for a big prospect haul.

Until then, though, Quintana is taking over for Sale as the team's No. 1. The two old mates will go head to head Tuesday night in a monumental matchup, and Quintana is already projecting that focus he learned from Sale.

"I have just one game, and I have my focus on throwing the ball well for my team, to get a 'W.' That’s my focus every time, to do my job," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling because I’m pitching against him, but I don’t want to pay attention to the other team. I just want to do my job."