Chris Sale’s stretch run Experience with White Sox, vital to Future

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When the Chicago White Sox brought up Chris Sale, their first round pick from this past June, it was a chance for Sale to dive right into the pool head first instead of slowly getting used to the water, gently dipping his toe in and go from there. Because his first Major League experience comes in the heat of a pennant race.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Sale said when I spoke with him earlier this week.

The White Sox selected left-handed pitcher out of Florida Gulf Coast University with their first-round pick (13th overall) June’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Sale, a 21-year-old junior, went 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA (23 ER/103.0 IP), 14 walks and 146 strikeouts in 17 games (15 starts) with the Eagles in 2010.  He leads all Division I pitchers in strikeouts, ranks fifth in wins and 10th in ERA. That’s right, just a couple months ago he was a college junior, and now he’s pitching in the big leagues.

Across two levels of the minors, the “lanky” Sale impressed White Sox brass, pitching 10 1/3 innings of relief, posting a 2.61 ERA with 19 strikeouts. He was certainly “fast-tracked” to the Majors; where he’s assumed bullpen duty.

“I been all over the place, living out of hotels, being the new guy on three different teams with three different coaches, and at each place I’ve taken something from somebody there,” Sale said.

By Paul M. Banks

In 7 1/3 innings of relief work, Sale is 0-1 with an ERA pf 1.23, a WHIP of 0.95 and strikeout to walk ratio of 9:4.

While Sale’s future is likely as a starter, giving top prospects exposure to the majors by working out of the bullpen first seemingly worked wonders for young pitchers like Tampa Bay’s David Price, who pitched out of the bullpen in 2008.

Price now an All-Star, and a Cy Young candidate, has a record of 15-6 and a 3.01 ERA in 2010.  The White Sox have also effectively used the bullpen as a major league training tool for pitchers Clayton Richard and Jon Garland, now both starting for the San Diego Padres (12-5, 3.55 ERA in 159 IP), (13-9, 3.29 ERA in 164 IP).

“Eventually I think the plan is for me to be transitioned into a starter but as of right now, I’m just going to worry about being ready everyday when my name is called and giving everything I got,” Sale said during our exclusive chat.

“Chris is one of the top left-handed pitchers in the country,” said Doug Laumann, White Sox director of amateur scouting.  “He pitched in a smaller conference but had outstanding numbers and showed very well against high-level competition.  We believe Chris is not real far away from contributing at the big-league level.”

The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder was named the 2010 National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the nation’s best amateur player.

Sale was listed by Baseball America as the No. 4 overall prospect in the draft behind catcher Bryce Harper, left-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon and infielder Manny Machado.

Sale’s power pitching potential, and poise for a player just out of college appear to outweigh the performance risks typically associated with a pitcher having minimal experience at the pro level. It also helps  that he was rated among the most “major league ready” in this past June’s draft.

I asked Sale what he’s working on to get better. “Just being consistent, throwing strikes, learning how to handle myself and not being afraid,” he responded.

Sox system pitchers are developed to work with speed and efficiency. Therefore, Sale fits in quite well. Especially since it all comes natural to him. The Sox developmental staff don’t have to teach him this ethic.

“I’ve always been kind of moving fast, I like to get in a groove and just keep going, keeping the batters off balance, not giving ‘em time to think.

Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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