Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
BOSTON Lost in the Paul Konerko dramatics, the Manny Ramirez braids and the Freddy Garcia cranky back was a milestone for a Chicago White Sox player destined to make a much bigger impact on the team than those three stars.
It was Chris Sale earning his first career save after hurling a scoreless ninth in Chicagos 6-4 win in Cleveland on Wednesday. The win earned a sweep of the Wahoos and crucial momentum heading into a weekend series against the similarly playoff-pushing Boston Red Sox.
Awesome, said White Sox manger Ozzie Guillen of Sales save, notched in his 10th career game. I was a little nervous and concerned because we put this kid in a spot he never had been, but we had a lot of confidence to put him in that situation. He handled it pretty good.
Earning a save in the first game he ever finished is just another benchmark passed by the lefty fireballer whos yet to suffer a setback in this, his first professional season. Not yet three months since being drafted, Sale is already arguably the most important pitcher in the White Sox organization, a versatile pitcher who projects as a starter but has proven adept in relief as well.
Theres a guy trying to hit the baseball and youre trying to get him out, regardless of whether youre throwing the first pitch of the game, the 80th pitch of the game or the last pitch of the game, Sale said after Wednesdays win. You still have to throw the ball to the mitt and get the guy out. Its all the same game, and thats the thought I try to take out there all the time.
Before Wednesdays game, Guillen forecasted brighter lights on Sale in comments addressing the anticipated return of mainstay lefthander Matt Thornton from the disabled list on Friday.
The funny thing about Thorntons DL stint is that now I know we can use Sale in any situation, he said. Before, I was kind of worried about using him in the eighth or the ninth inning because it was always Thornton. Now, if Thornton needs a day off I will be more secure and have more flexibility with Sale because I know he can get people out, too.
Sale has compiled a 0.90 ERA so far with the White Sox, with an outrageous K9 rate of 14.4. But not until Wednesday did the lifelong starter have a shot at a save. Of course, after whiffing leadoff batter Jason Donald on five fastballs, ranging from 87 to 97 mph, Sale almost lost his shot at finishing the game. The rookie walked his next two hitters, the second free pass to Michael Brantley coming on four straight pitches.
I lost the fastball for a hitter or so, Sale said. White Sox catcher Ramon Castro came out and was just like, Hey, Im not going to say anything to you, just giving you some time, lets go, lets do this. And from there on I was like, All right, lets go, lets get the save, lets get out of here, we need the sweep, we need these games. And I just went out there and threw the ball.
From the moment he first used Sale, a month ago vs. the Baltimore Orioles, Guillen has been wowed by the rookies fearlessness.
This kid has a chance to be great, Guillen said Wednesday. His presence on the mound is very positive, and thats why he has the chance to become a pretty good pitcher.
Being placed on the fast track to his managers trust is an honor not lost on the 21-year-old.
Its greatdefinitely a lot of satisfaction there, Sale said of securing a significant role in the Chicago bullpen. Its awesome, not just getting up to the majors so quick but being here for such a short amount of time but Guillen having the confidence in me to save a two-run ballgame.
Sale has also proven a quick read of his tempestuous manager, so hes not surprised to be thrown out into any relief situation with the White Sox, in spite of never having relieved before in his career.
We all know Ozzie, hes not gonna wait to do anything, Sale said. They have the trust in me and are confident to throw me out there in any situation.
And as for the fact that he could be a member of the White Soxs starting rotation as early as 2011 and thus might not get a chance for many more saves, Sale was happy that his first career save is crossed off his to-do list.
There it is, exactly, I got a save he said, laughing. One thing I dont have to worry about doing in the future.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.