ST. LOUIS — Chris Sale is only 26, yet he’s been a fixture in the White Sox clubhouse longer than only John Danks, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, minus the latter’s month-and-a-half sabbatical in Anaheim.
The left-hander is the undisputed ace of the White Sox rotation and has cemented himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers entering his start Tuesday night in St. Louis, No. 100 of his career. If he racks up a double-digit strikeout total against the Cardinals, he’ll join Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in major league history with 10 or more strikeouts in eight straight starts.
Expect Sale to earn his fourth consecutive All-Star bid next month, too. All this adds up to manager Robin Ventura putting Sale squarely in the “veteran” category.
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“For him, it’s really become managing innings, exertion, all the things that go with it,” Ventura said. “If it doesn’t go right and there’s an error made behind you, you’re able to get after the next guy. For him, and that’s just me watching him, he’s just a more mature person on the mound when he goes out there and goes through the middle of the innings. That’s just been something that’s been fun to watch for him.”
Despite still being in his mid-20’s, Sale has only started 15 fewer games than 30-year-old teammate Jeff Samardzija. Ventura’s seen Sale, too, develop from a guy who throws hard into a guy who throws hard but also knows how to pitch in different situations. That knowledge and feel for the game comes with experience that’s built up over the last few years.
“I think he’s getting into that realm of being able to do that and being considered that veteran guy,” Ventura said. “When he first came up, he was the young guy with all the pitchers that we had. So he’s quickly kind of become the middle of the road guy but now moving into veteran guy and a chance for him to go to another All-Star Game. When those start adding up, you become the veteran guy.”