Poetry in Pros: Sale starts... eventually

368346.jpg

Poetry in Pros: Sale starts... eventually

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
11:51 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO If Chicago White Sox rookie Chris Sale watches The Office, he got a taste of a 9-to-5 life hell likely never know on Thursday, when his cubicled phone calls to White Sox season ticketholders were bookended by a short media session held in Director of Ticket Sales Tom Sheridans corner office at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sources say Sale left with no surreptitiously-lifted highlighters or post-it notepads, but as imagined, he handled his time under the office fluorescents just as smoothly as he does ninth-inning pitches under the floodlights illuminating the diamond.

Nonplussed doesnt begin to describe the beyond-his-years cool Sale brought to Sheridans desk on Thursday, swatting away potentially tricky questions about his 2011 role with the White Sox with aplomb.

To be totally honest, to me when I pitch doesnt really matter, Sale said when asked for the first of a few times about his upcoming role, which could range anywhere from the teams fifth starter to its closer, with any number of hybrid startingrelief roles in between. I just want to pitch. Ive played baseball my entire life, and my role doesnt matter, whether its starting, middle, long or closing.

Any of those scenarios could be in the offing for Sale, although with starter Jake Peavy working well ahead of schedule as he rehabilitates from latissimus dorsi surgery last July, it appears that Sale is destined for a shorter role with the team, which would almost certainly come down to occupying Matt Thorntons old role as primary lefty setup man or succeeding Bobby Jenks as the clubs closer.

WATCH: Thornton wants closer job

While a lot of worry about an undefined role for Sale swirls around him, from coaches and fans alike, the 21-year-old is completely composed.

Sale is a hurler whose relatively innocent, videogamer-next-door looks are utterly betrayed by fearlessness and badassity on the mound. Not yet three weeks in the bigs he failed to shake off a single call from catcher A.J. Pierzynski, improbably whiffing Minnesota Twins uberhitter Joe Mauer with three straight sliders and later shrugging off the immaculate nature of such an achievement with a simple A.J. called em, I threw em explanation.

Three days later, he rapped on manager Ozzie Guillens door and asked to start a game during an ill-timed twinight doubleheader in Kansas City, offering to rescue the staff at a time when the Chisox pitching corps was beyond strapped.

So, shifting from a starting role in, say, April to short relief later in the season? Been there, done that, says the kid.

I was a starter in college and when the White Sox signed me, they put me in the pen, Sale said with a shrug. It was something to adapt to, but not that big of a transition.

Sale would have had a remarkable 2010 even if he failed in the majors, as the first and only 2010 draft choice to play in the big leagues. But Sale thrived with the White Sox, going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, four saves in four chances and 12.3 K9.

Keep in mind that Sale was merely adding to an immaculate 2010 season that began 11-0 in 15 starts for Florida Gulf Coast College, melted through an accelerated tutorial of 11 games with the White Soxs Single-A and Triple-A clubs, and culminated in the bigs, where Sale almost immediately resumed his dominant pitching.

Guillen recounts the story of seeing just a short bit of tape of Sale at the time of the draft in June and remarking that hes better than some of the guys he had on the major-league roster at the time now to laughter, but the managers eye has proven astute. There simply arent many better than Sale.

READ: Ozzie talks lineup, wishes Jenks well

The lefty has a good read on two things regarding his career. First, theres a healthy likelihood that hes headed to the bullpen for a second straight season, perhaps as his clubs closer. Second, as soon as 2012, hell be penciled into the White Sox rotation and will finally get to trot out and show off perhaps his best out pitch, his changeup.

Sale is optimistic about both options, in whatever order they come.

Last year was unbelievable because I got experience pitching in the big leagues, he said. If I go back to the bullpen, Thornton and Sergio Santos are there, and they can help me. I kind of know the basics already.

Sale admitted theres an adjustment to being prepared to pitch on an everyday basis vs. the longer and less frequent outings of a starter. Likewise he confessed last fall that initially, his energy would pin when the call came to the pen, rousting him into warm-ups.

All offseason, Sale has prepared to start, and he knows that the rotation is his ultimate pitching destination.

Pitching coach Don Cooper said I will eventually be a starter, whether its this year or next, or whenever, that long-term Ill be a starter, the 65 fireballer said. Im not trying to make too much of my 2011 role. Whatever they want me to do in 2011, Ill give it 100 percent.

One thing Sale hasnt put 100 percent into is the popular pastime of picking out bullpen entry music. Whether its a nod to his preference to start games or simply aw-shucks awe at being counted on as a key staff member for a ballclub with playoff aspirations, Sale claims to not have put any thought into a replacement for the misappropriated Come Sail Away Styx ditty that welcomed him to the mound in his Chicago relief appearances.

Ive gotten that question of entry music a lot, believe it or not, Sale said with a laugh. But I havent thought much about it. Whatever they play, they play, and Ill go out there and be excited to pitch no matter whats on the P.A.

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

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

 

The White Sox take on the Twins on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.97 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.40 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Even though he felt isolated and experienced a five-day stretch he called “a fiasco,” Chris Sale was right where he wants to be Thursday, surrounded by White Sox teammates.

Shortly after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs, the pitcher echoed the sentiments of White Sox management in a 10-minute media session when he suggested he’d like to move on from a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property.

With the trade deadline only four days away, Sale wants to stay with the White Sox and hopes the current roster gets an opportunity to win. He also thought an incident in which he destroyed promotional throwback jerseys had been blown out of proportion.

While he didn’t apologize for his actions, the left-hander said he regretted letting down his teammates and fans who attended Saturday’s game. Sale, whose record fell to 14-4 after he allowed two runs in six innings, said he plans to address White Sox players and coaches soon and intends to let them know his level of appreciation.

“I want to let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at,” Sale said. “And let them know how much I appreciate them.

“I felt like I was out on an island, really. 7 o’clock rolls around and I usually know what’s going on. Sitting at the house sucks.

“I regret not being there for my guys. I’m a pitcher. I’m called upon every fifth day and when I can’t go out there for my guys and the fans, it gets to me.”

Similar to March when he pitched a day after ripping executive vice president Kenny Williams, Sale said his focus is back on the field. He declined to answer what he didn’t like about the throwback jerseys, calling it “counterproductive.” Even though the White Sox are on the outside looking in, Sale is hopeful he and his teammates can rally and make a strong postseason push over the final 60 games.

“I think everyone is making just a little bit bigger deal of this then it really is,” Sale said. “We are here to win games and from this point forward, I think that’s our main focus. We are going to come in every day and do our jobs and try to win ballgames, that’s at the forefront.

“I don’t like people filling in for me. I love what I do. I love pitching. I love competing. I love the guys that I’m surrounded by.”

“When I let them down, it hurts me more than it hurts them.”

Three days after he suggested manager Robin Ventura didn’t properly support him, Sale declined to discuss their future relationship and again diverted the conversation back to the field. When asked what was the biggest lesson he took from the ordeal, Sale said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I know you guys are trying to get in there and you guys have to write stories and stuff,” Sale said. “I understand. But they said their side. I said my side. I’m ready to talk about baseball and playing baseball and getting back to winning and getting the Chicago White Sox into the postseason. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Anything else, that’s for you guys.”

While he admits that his competitive side may have fed into Saturday’s events, he also knows abandoning it would hurt him on the field. Sale said he was inundated by texts and calls from teammates past and present during his absence. That only strengthened his desire to win with the current group, Sale said.

“There’s no doubt my emotions have got me to this point,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the same person without them but stuff happens. Move on. We have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’ll just push forward.

“I’m here to win. I love exactly where I’m at. I have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’re pulling for each other, they are pulling for me and vice versa, through and through. I’d like to stay with this group of guys and make a push for the playoffs because I love those guys.”

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.”