Sale drawing comparisons to 'Big Unit'

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Sale drawing comparisons to 'Big Unit'

KANSAS CITY -- Chris Sale is barely two years removed from when he was made a first-round draft pick in baseballs 2010 amateur draft.

Hes one of only four first-round selections from the June 2010 draft to have already reached the big leagues.

Despite his tender age, Sale, 23, has not only made the transition from the bullpen to frontline starting pitcher, the White Sox left-hander was a legitimate candidate to start Tuesdays All-Star Game for the American League. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander will instead start Tuesdays game, AL manager Ron Washington announced at Mondays All-Star Game press conference.

The announcement didnt slow the praise heaped upon Sale by his AL teammates, several of whom compared him with Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson.

Well, almost.

Hes pretty unique, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. Hes not as tall and he doesnt really have the haircut that Randy had, but he kind of slings it the same way and has pretty good stuff.

After he made 79 relief appearances in parts of two seasons, Sale, who debuted on Aug. 6, 2010, has made a pretty good transition into the White Sox starting rotation.

Sales only blip this season was a scare in early May, which resulted in a precautionary MRI on his left elbow and a brief return to the bullpen.

But Sale has been otherwise brilliant in his first season as a starter. He is 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA in 16 games (15 starts).

This is the stuff you dont ever think about, Sale said. You want to go out there and help your team win. This is stuff you dont ever see yourself doing. Im just fortunate to be sitting here and Im thankful for that opportunity I got. I guess (the rapid rise) does get kind of crazy, but I try not to look too far into it.

Hitters do their best not to think about Sales stuff.

With a fastball that averages 93 mph and a slider capable of fooling hitters on both sides of the plate, not to mention his wiry 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame, which adds deception to his delivery, Sale is adequately armed to face major league hitters.

Ive had many left-handers tell me he has the best left-hand slider period, first baseman Paul Konerko said. And hell buckle right-handers with sliders, which is hard to even picture how that happens. You see guys right-handed and the ball comes out of his hand high and away, they actually freeze when it comes down. You dont see too many guys in the game do that. You see Verlander do it with his curveball to lefties. Its pretty amazing.

Sales statistics tell an equally remarkable tale.

His .197 batting average against ranks fourth among major league pitchers while his 2.19 ERA and 0.95 WHIP rank third. Sale also has yielded the fourth fewest homers in the majors (five).

Konerko thinks the jaw-dropping aspect to the tale isnt Sales ascent, though he agrees that aspect is impressive, but rather how easily the left-hander has handled the transition from the bullpen to the rotation.

He was throwing 96-to-100 mph last year, Konerko said. I know he can still do that. But you cant do that as a starter. Just to try to change the way he was throwing the ball for the whole year last year and then to come out this year and say Now Im going to have to pitch a little more. Im going to have more baserunners. Im going to face more right-handers because Im not going to always get the lefty matchups I got out of the pen -- all that stuff. To process that at his age and his experience and deal with it is pretty amazing.

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is also impressed by Sale and has drawn the comparison between him and Johnson, who stood 6-feet-10-inches and won 303 games.

Mauer also has already seen enough of Sale to know hed prefer to see less of him.

Its tough, Mauer said. I was able to face Randy a couple of times before he retired. (Sale) has a great angle coming in and hes got great movement on his pitches.

You could definitely tell. Hes got great stuff. A great arm. I kind of wish he was in a different division.

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Saladino hit leadoff on Wednesday, finishing with a home run and a single.

Saladino's first-inning drive was one of eight combined homers hit between the White Sox and San Diego Padres, who finished in a 9-all tie at Camelback Ranch. Before the game, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said that Saladino, who finished 2-for-2, would see most of his playing time at second base.

"He's been developing and continuing to grow every single season," Renteria said. "The flexibility that he brings allows him to be in the lineup over an extended period of time. But we want to make sure we take care of him as we want to do with everybody else, kind of keep them all fresh as much as we can.

"He's developed into a pretty good major league baseball player."

Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico and Jake Peter all homered for the White Sox. Delmonico led the White Sox with five homers this spring. Abreu went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs.

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Rule 5 pitcher Dylan Covey, who appears primed to make the Opening Day roster, allowed two earned runs in his lone inning pitched. Covey then headed to the bullpen and threw additional pitches there as the White Sox continue to build up his arm strength.

Veteran Anthony Swarzak allowed a run and struck out two in two innings. Reliever Dan Jennings allowed five runs (four earned) and four hits in 1/3 innings.

First-rounder Zack Collins drew a pair of walks in his only plate appearances and scored a run.

The White Sox ended the spring with a 16-15-2 record.

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Zack Burdi headed for the minors, the White Sox 12-man pitching staff is all but set.

The Opening Day roster won't be finalized until Sunday and the White Sox hypothetically could find an attractive candidate to claim off the waiver wire over the weekend. But barring that, it looks as if veteran Anthony Swarzak and second-year reliever Michael Ynoa have made the team after Burdi said Wednesday morning that he'd start the season at Triple-A Charlotte. 

The No. 7 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com, Burdi finished the spring with a 6.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Burdi finished his Cactus League on a high note with three strikeouts over an inning on Tuesday, including one of Kansas City four-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. 

"Man, it's been crazy," Burdi said. "Coming in and being the young guy in the locker room and then just progressing and showing a little bit more (comfort) around the guys and the veterans and then just being able to pick their brains and go out every day and try to progress. You get to the innings and you are facing guys you've watched your last 10 years of your life. It has been crazy and definitely something I won't forget."

Burdi lasted the longest this spring out of the cache of highly-touted prospects the White Sox brought to big league camp. Prior to escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam Tuesday, Burdi looked like he would allow a run in a third straight game after a hot start to camp (he only allowed a run in one of his first 10 appearances). But Burdi battled back and struck out Perez on three pitches, one of two straight strikeouts to strand both runners.

Pitching coach Don Cooper has been impressed by Burdi throughout the spring. But he also wants to see the Louisville product continue to work on command in the minors.

"You can't not see his stuff," Cooper said. "Everybody gets excited when you see 99, 100, 101. But whether you throw it 101 or 83 like [Mark] Buehrle you have to throw it to the glove with command, change speeds and all that stuff. But he's a big part of our future going forward. He's one of the names."

Burdi said he plans to operate like he has already spring and not pay attention to any of the hype. Though he'd like to play in the majors, Burdi is excited to play alongside the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer in Charlotte.

"Once you get a feel for all this stuff and you feel how cool it is to be in the locker room with all these guys and play with them, of course you want to get back up here," Burdi said. "But at the same time, a lot of my really good friends are on Charlotte and I couldn't be more excited to go down there and play with them and make the most of the season down there."