Q: In 2010, Chris Sale‘s contribution to the White Sox was indisputably huge. I was wondering what capacity you see Sale in for the White Sox in 2011: starter or bullpen? I remember Williams saying that the White Sox were looking for him to join the rotation, but finding solid bullpen help is so difficult.
A: Right now, I would say Sale is the White Sox closer, even if he prepares as a starter during Spring Training.
That guess is not meant as any slight to Matt Thornton, who certainly can handle this job and probably would become one of the American League’s elite closers. He has the makeup and, of course, the pure talent.
Thornton ultimately might become a victim of his own All-Star success. The Sox rely on Thornton to shut down hitters in the seventh or the eighth or possibly both innings and might feel more comfortable with the rookie Sale solely working the ninth.
Sale could end up as a starter. But pitching coach Don Cooper has stressed to me during two offseason conversations how he doesn’t think it’s good for Sale’s development to use him as a starter in place of Jake Peavy for four or five weeks and then put him back into the bullpen. Remember, just because Sale closes or relieves this season doesn’t mean he can’t be a top-flight starter in the future. Check out Texas and its potential plans for Neftali Feliz as an example.
Merkin also speaks positively about Tyler Flowers’ defense.