A Detroit newspaper said Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland did not meet with reporters after a game for the first time in at least six years after a 6-3 loss to the White Sox July 11, when a high-and-tight fastball from Chris Sale nearly hit Tigers’ slugger Prince Fielder.
Sale insisted the pitch, which followed a home run by Miguel Cabrera, was not intentional, and Sox manager Robin Ventura said Sale always overthrows when he’s frustrated.
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On Saturday, Sale told reporters he cleared the air with Fielder after the game, and he did the same with Leyland at the All-Star Game earlier this week.
“I thoroughly enjoyed [talking to Leyland],” Sale said. “Him and my grandfather had a mutual friend in Lakeland [Fla.]. Just being from Lakeland, growing up around that, seeing how he is. I’ve said it before, he’s a Hall of Fame manager, and giving me the time of day, it means the world. Being able to kind of get things ironed out and not only that but build on top of that was special for me.”
Sale was the game’s winning pitcher, striking out two with unhittable sliders in two dominant innings. What was his favorite part of the experience?
“Probably Mariano [Rivera] coming in to pitch,” Sale said about the Yankees closer, who will retire after this season. “Hearing the music start, seeing him run in and warming up on the field and watching him out there was the coolest thing, by far.”
Sale is arguably one of the best five starters in baseball this season, with a 2.85 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 120 innings, despite his 6-8 record. The 24-year-old lefty was 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA after the first half last year before tapering some in the second half, finishing 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA.
“[Pitching coach Don Cooper] and I talked about it yesterday in my sideline session,” Sale said. “This year, let’s spring across the finish line instead of stumbling across or fall across.”