Chris Sale’s time as a starting pitcher lasted one month and 32 innings.
But the White Sox view the left-hander’s move from the rotation to the team’s closer, as announced by manager Robin Ventura prior to Friday’s series opener in Detroit, not as a disappointment but more as a move to preserve Sale’s career.
The 23-year-old had been experiencing a mixture of soreness and tightness in his pitching elbow, according to Ventura. So Ventura met with Sale on Friday and the decision was made.
Sale left the meeting wearing a compression sleeve on his elbow. He elected not to comment pregame. Sale has said before that he enjoys the thrill of closing but has always felt more comfortable as a starter.
As Ventura pointed out, Sale is not hurt and still could probably go out and start. Ventura added that Sale is tough enough to handle the starting rigors, but Ventura would feel terrible if Sale got hurt in the process.
“It’s not disappointing to us,” said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of the change. “It’s disappointing to him because this was something that he’s always wanted to do.”
In what could be his first and only year as a starter, Sale has a 3-1 record with a 2.89 ERA during five trips to the mound, with 29 strikeouts and eight walks over those 32 innings. He threw at least 100 pitches in each of his first four starts, before being pulled with 88 pitches after six innings against Cleveland on Tuesday.
… This Sale move obviously affects alignment for the rest of the staff. Hector Santiago, who recorded four saves as the White Sox closer, will move into a middle-relief role with the South Siders now having four left-handers in the bullpen. Dylan Axelrod gets the start in Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers and will have the first chance to hold on to that fifth spot.
… There wasn’t a complete feeling of permanence with this Sale move, as both Cooper and Ventura espoused a “never say never” attitude. But the 13th pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, who had a 2.58 ERA over 79 career relief appearances coming into the 2012 campaign, not to mention 12 saves, will be the White Sox closer for the foreseeable future.
“He is much more important to the White Sox organization with a uniform on and pitching,” Cooper said. “And we are not going to put that at a greater risk, or jeopardize that.”
“It’s not disappointing to us, it’s disappointing to him because this was something he’s always wanted to do,” pitching coach Don Cooper said before the Sox’ game at Detroit Friday. “We’re not making this decision based on what’s best for the team because obviously he’s starting and doing well and that would be a wonderful thing to keep him in. We feel we’re doing what’s best for him, his career and his health. It’s the best way to keep him healthy and strong.”
“It’s easier to maintain that and keeping tabs on this in the bullpen than it is as a starter,” Cooper said. “We already know he’s a good left-handed reliever. That’s been proven over the past 1 ½ years. Now we’ll be trying to make him one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, not just in the American League. That’s all we’re at with it. Chris is going to be fine. He was upset. He wanted to continue to do this. But sometimes we have to make decisions based upon what we feel is best for that individual, and that’s what we did.” …
When I first saw the headline I said ‘dammit, don’t these knuckleheads understand that he’s more valuable as a starter?’ After reading the whole article though I’m convinced this is no ‘we’re desperate for a closer’ move and I’m scared beyond words. Merkin’s article sounds horrible. Cooper’s quote is as scary as it gets.