Poetry in Pros: Sale starts... eventually

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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.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."