With a turf toe injury to reliever LHP Eric Threets, and few better options to assume a left-handed specialist role in the bullpen, the first place Chicago White Sox will call upon LHP Chris Sale, their top pick from this year’s amateur draft for assistance.
Will the move be permanent or just cup of coffee for the young hurler? Will he head back to the minors quickly? As GM Kenny Williams said on a recent episode of MLB network’s The Club, “he will not hesitate to make a move that he thinks will help his team improve.”
After the draft, he told Sale that “he envisions him making the majors quickly.”
White Sox organist Nancy Faust can get brushed up on “Come Sail Away,” by Styx as Sale gets set to become the first player from this year’s amateur draft to reach the major leagues.
The White Sox needed another lefty to replace Eric Threets (0.00 ERA, 5 Ks, 9.1 IP), who was placed on the disabled list Sunday with turf toe. Across two levels of the minors, the “lanky” Sale has impressed White Sox brass, pitching 10 1/3 innings of relief, posting a 2.61 ERA with 19 strikeouts.
Carlos Torres was already optioned back to AAA after taking the loss in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.
While Sale’s future is likely as a starter, giving top prospects exposure to the majors through work out of the bullpen first appears to have worked wonders for young pitchers like Tampa Bay’s David Price, who pitched out of the bullpen in 2008.
Price is now a Cy Young candidate, with a record of 14-5 and a 2.90 ERA in 2010. The White Sox have also effectively used the bullpen as a major league training tool for pitchers such as Clayton Richard, now starting for the San Diego Padres (9-5, 3.60 ERA in 137 IP), and Jon Garland, also now with the Padres (10-7, 3.60 ERA in 132 IP), who was a key arm in the South Siders winning the 2005 World Series.
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. Additionally, the White Sox
have few options at AAA beyond experiments which have already failed.
While journeyman lefty Randy Williams has been decent since his demotion to AAA, he couldn’t get lefties out to save his life in 2010 and he’s had major control problems, (5.40 ERA, 2.32 WHIP in 25 IP).
The White Sox have nothing to lose by calling on Sale, while they see what veteran lefty names appear on the waiver wire between now and September. If their starting pitching remains effective, the White Sox will
likely not put much pressure on the rookie, with exceptional arms such as Sergio Santos (1.62 ERA, 36 SO, 33.1 IP), J.J. Putz (1.83 ERA, 45 SO, 39.1 IP), Matt Thornton (2.43 ERA, 54 SO, 40.2 IP) and a resurgent Bobby Jenks
(4.70 ERA, 49 SO, 38.1 IP, 22 Saves) working the sixth inning forward.
However, exposure to these great power pitchers, as well as the “guru” mentoring of Don Cooper can only help Sale’s future development. Especially since he’ll only likely see action during mop-up time.
Chris Sale attended Florida Gulf Coast University and was the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft. As a 21-year-old junior, he went 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA (23 ER in 103.0 IP), 14 walks and 146 strikeouts in 17 games, 15 of
which were starts.
He led all Division I pitchers in strikeouts, ranked fifth in wins and 10th in ERA.
Sale was also named the 2010 National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, was 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.
He 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. He also was ranked by the same publication as
possessing the “Best Command” among draft-eligible college players, and as the second closest player “Ready for the Majors” out of the draft.
In 2009 he was named Baseball America’s top prospect in the Cape Cod League after going 4-2 with a 1.47 ERA (9 ER/55.0 IP) and 57 strikeouts for Yarmouth-Dennis.
Let’s hope his major league career “sets sail” on a positive note.