Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

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Spring training storylines: Sale's repertoire

Moving Chris Sale to the starting rotation absolutely is the right move for the White Sox. If Sale enjoys even moderate success as a starter, he'll provide a whole lot more value to the team than if he remained a dominant reliever.

But Sale still has to prove he can pitch as a starter. He doesn't have any professional experience as one, so a few things need to be monitored closely this spring to give us an early idea of whether or not he'll be successful.

Sale's slider is filthy, that much we know. He'll continue to terrorize left-handers with it, and it's not an easy pitch for righties to hit, either. But Sale leaned heavily on his slider in 2011, throwing it 36.4 percent of the time. Only one starter -- converted Texas reliever Alexi Ogando -- threw a higher rate of sliders last season.

It's possible Sale can keep throwing his slider at such a high rate, but expect him to use it with a little less frequency than he did in 2011.

He'll also have to dial his fastball back a bit velocity-wise, since he won't be able to go max-effort on every pitch as he was able to do out of the bullpen. That means he won't be able to blow hitters away as easily with his fastball, so he'll need to show good command of it in the low-to-mid 90's. There's a whole lot more room for error when you can whip a fastball in around 97 miles per hour.

Sale won't need a Mark Buehrle-level of command to succeed, but he'll have to be able to place his fastball inside and outside. There may be some bumps along the way, and perhaps Sale will allow a few home runs in spring training, but he should have a good opportunity to work out the kinks in March.

His changeup is the next key. Sale threw that pitch 11 percent of the time in 2011, using it more often early in counts -- although he would occasionally show it with two strikes.

It's not like Sale completely scrapped the pitch as a reliever, which is good. And according to Fangraphs' pitch values, it's been a very successful pitch when he's used it since coming to the majors.

Sale doesn't have to use his changeup more as a starter, but it couldn't hurt, especially against right-handed heavy lineups.

So when Sale's first spring outing rolls around, keep an eye on these four things: His fastball command, fastball velocity, slider use and changeup effectiveness. If all those factors mesh together, Sale has a chance to be an ace.

'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.