Sale moving to bullpen, will close

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Sale moving to bullpen, will close

In a move that has serious short and long-term repercussions, Chris Sale is no longer a starter.

According to MLB.com's Scott Merkin, Sale experienced some tenderness in his elbow and in an effort to keep him healthy, the White Sox are moving him to the bullpen, where he will close. Dylan Axelrod will start Sunday's contest against the Tigers, while Hector Santiago will move to middle relief.

On Wednesday, Sale appeared on Chicago Tribune Live and seemed pleased with his development as a starter (see his full comments in the video to the right). So that's why Friday's announcement is so jarring.

Short-term, this is both good and bad news for the White Sox. The good news is that the Sox probably won't have to worry much about the ninth inning, which has been shaky with Santiago pitching as the closer this season. Sale has been dynamite as a reliever, posting a 2.58 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 37 walks in 94 13 innings between 2010 and 2011.

But losing Sale as a starter may outweigh gaining him as a closer. Assuming Sale was able to stay healthy as a starter, he had all the makings of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In 32 innings over five starts this season, Sale had a 2.81 ERA with 29 strikeouts and eight walks. But his velocity saw a drop in his last outing, which may have precipitated this move, along with his reported tightnesssoreness.

There's little chance Sale will provide more value to the White Sox as a closer than as a starter (again, assuming Sale could've stayed healthy as a starter). Case in point: through five starts this season, Fangraphs had Sale worth about 1 win above replacement -- only half a win less than he earned in 58 relief appearances with the White Sox in 2011.

Simply put, Sale can't have as great an impact on the White Sox if he's only pitching one inning at a time. Of course, this move was made for reasons beyond value, and Sale can't contribute anything if he winds up on the disabled list. So if moving him to the bullpen ultimately is a way to keep him healthy, then it's the right call.

For Axelrod, this is a huge break. He has a chance to earn a spot in a big-league starting rotation for the first time in his career, and if he's able to pitch half as good as he did in Charlotte, he'll earn it.

Four Triple-A starts are hardly reliable, but at least they were four very good ones. Axelrod posted a 1.08 ERA with 26 strikeouts and four walks in 25 innings for the Knights before he was called up when Jesse Crain went down with an injury in late April.

With Axelrod in the rotation, the Sox will have a difficult roster decision on their hands when Crain returns. Nate Jones would be the most likely candidate to be shipped off to the minors, although he has a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings. The Sox will probably opt to keep Zach Stewart in the bullpen given his long-relief abilities.

Sale's move to the bullpen gives the Sox an excess of left-handed relievers, though, so perhaps the other option is to send Santiago down or, just speculating, part ways with Will Ohman, who has a 6.23 ERA in 8 23 innings this season.

But whatever move the Sox make in that regard will be minor compared to Sale's move back to the bullpen. The door may not be shut on Sale starting at some point in his career, but it appears to be open by just a crack.

Sale was drafted No. 13 overall to be a starter, no matter how impressive he looked pitching in relief. Many evaluations pegged Sale as a future reliever, though, and right now, it looks like that'll be his role.

'It's possible, absolutely' that Carlos Rodon's next start could be with White Sox

'It's possible, absolutely' that Carlos Rodon's next start could be with White Sox

Help may be on the horizon for the White Sox starting rotation. 

Carlos Rodon, who threw 4 1/3 innings for the Charlotte Knights on Friday night, could make his next start for the big league club.

Before the Mark Buehrle Day ceremony on Saturday, Rick Renteria discussed whether the 24-year-old would need another start in Triple-A Charlotte as he rehabs from bursitis in his left shoulder. 

"I don't," Renteria said. "I think our plans are probably to get him back with us." 

Despite being tagged for seven earned runs Friday, Renteria was encouraged by Rodon's sharp off-speed pitches. He also extended for 91 pitches, but the Knights' defense struggled, stretching innings with two throwing errors.

"Actually, in talking to everybody, he threw pretty well," Renteria said. "Had a couple miscues in the field that were probably limited his outing. He felt good, pain-free, we’re very happy with that. According to the reports, the slider was working very well. He’s on track to come on back.”

His return could boost a rotation that has labored over the past month. In the last 30 games, the starters' ERA is a combined 5.63 with just six quality starts. They also set a franchise record for consecutive games without a quality start, tallying up 13 in a row. 

Renteria didn't level any specific expectations for Rodon, but stretching him out in Charlotte eases the transition. 

“I have to monitor everything he’s doing," Renteria said. "It’d be foolish for me to say I’m not going to be mindful of what he’s gone through. Obviously, we’re very happy that he’s healthy. He’s gotten up to I think 91 pitches yesterday, so we’re not concerned about his pitch count.”

In Triple-A Charlotte rehab starts, Rodon is 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA. He did whiff seven batters Friday, though, for a season high. 

As for Miguel Gonzalez, his timetable for a return is still up in the air, but he will throw a bullpen session Sunday or Monday, according to Renteria.

In the bullpen, Nate Jones got clearance to start throwing on Saturday. Infielder Tyler Saladino was also cleared, but Renteria said the team will "progress slowly" with him. 

 

 

Tim Anderson's birthday present from home plate umpire was first major-league ejection

Tim Anderson's birthday present from home plate umpire was first major-league ejection

On his 24th birthday, Tim Anderson’s present from home plate umpire Jim Wolf was his first major-league ejection.

In the fifth inning of the White Sox 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics, Anderson fouled off a pitch that landed in the opposing batter’s box. But A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell picked it up in what was ruled to be fair territory and threw the ball to first for the out.

Anderson pleaded his case saying the ball went foul. Wolf agreed, according to Anderson, which only further confused the White Sox shortstop.

“I told him that was BS,” Anderson said. “And he tossed me.”

Anderson said that he was surprised to be ejected so fast. So was manager Rick Renteria, who was thrown out moments after Anderson.

“I don’t want to get in trouble,” Renteria said. “The players having emotion, they are battling. I just think we need to grow a little thicker skin.”

Anderson said that he was appreciative of his manager coming to his defense.

“He kinda had a point and let me know he had my back,” Anderson said of Renteria. “Speaks a lot of him.”

A day after scoring nine runs on 18 hits, the White Sox failed to generate any offense on Friday. The team’s best chance came in the ninth inning.

But with runners at the corners and two outs, Matt Davidson put a good rip on the ball to center field, only to fly out at the warning track.

Anderson and Renteria were watching the game together in the clubhouse, and both believed the White Sox had tied the ballgame.

“We all jumped up and were excited but it kind of fell short,” Anderson said.