Chris Sale's line today: 6 23 innings pitched, one run, three hits, two walks, five strikeouts, nine groundouts, three flyouts, 100 pitches.
Doesn't sound like someone who hasn't started a game in the majors, right?
The thing that pops out is how many ground balls Sale got. A big question coming into this year was about his ability to command the strike zone with dialed-back stuff, and Sale answered that question positively on Monday. He kept the ball low in the zone with a fastball that averaged about 92 miles per hour -- around four miles per hour slower than his average velocity as a reliever.
The key was that Sale didn't try to strike everybody out. He could get away with that as a reliever and often succeeded doing so, but through 100 pitches, he had to be more efficient. And he was. That's extremely encouraging.
Sale's fastball was his best offering on Monday, but his slider and changeup were good as well. He only threw 12 changes -- right in line with his 11.7 percent usage of that pitch as a reliever last year.
It's just one start, but that's an early answer to another Sale question: He's not throwing his changeup more as a starter than as a reliever. And he probably doesn't have to -- 12 pitches in 100 is about right for a third pitch.
Overall, here's how Sale's offerings broke down (via Brooks Baseball): 57 fastballs, 31 sliders, 12 changeups. His percentages in his two years of relieving: 55 percent fastballs, 35 percent sliders, 10 percent changeups. So little has changed in his pitch selection, at least through one start.
There's not much Sale could've done better in his first start. Now he's just gotta do it 30 more times this year.