Chris Sale's return to the White Sox took a big step forward Saturday afternoon.
The left-hander threw 60 pitches over four innings of a simulated game, mixing fastballs, changeups and sliders while going "all out" in his final two innings. The next step for Sale is likely to go out on one of two planned rehab assignments, with a possible return for the White Sox-Yankees series at U.S. Cellular Field May 22-25.
"Today went really well," Sale said. "Very encouraged by the work we got in. … I felt very, very good today."
Acting manager Mark Parent said Sale told him his arm feels "brand new," though emphasized the organization is still exercising patience as the 25-year-old works his way back from a left flexor muscle strain.
"We’ve got to be cautious with him and build him up," said Parent, who's filling in as manager with Robin Ventura attending his daughter's graduation from Oklahoma State. "Sometimes a guy comes out in his outing and tries to overdo it maybe and you don’t want to risk that. Let him knock some of that adrenaline out."
Sale was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 22, five days after throwing a career high 127 pitches against Boston. He'll have missed at least a month when he returns to the White Sox rotation, assuming he makes two rehab starts.
But Sale said he'd rather get the problem fixed now instead of rushing back and risking it popping back up again. And the good news for him is he has "zero concern" about the injury since it involves a muscle, not any tendons or ligaments.
"It has stunk, bad," Sale said. "Obviously this took longer than I expected and longer than I think anybody else expected but at the same time, you’d rather tale the time now and be able to get it over with and done with than have it linger.
"It’s almost like getting your car fixed. Do you want to leave it in the shop for a few more days and have it done and ready to go or do you want to have to take it back once a month or every couple of weeks and have that linger around. So I think when we’re done with this we’ll be ready to go."