GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He’d appreciate a little more atmosphere, but the focus was evident in Chris Sale’s workout on Friday.
The four-time All-Star pitcher participated in the first of three side sessions on a backfield at Camelback Ranch that will be substituted for game action. The White Sox prefer to keep Sale hidden from the first three opponents he’d face this spring and therefore he won’t pitch in a Cactus League game until March 19 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even though it means pitching on empty backfields against teammates instead of in stadiums versus other teams, Sale thinks he can get in just as much quality work.
“You want to play,” Sale said. “But I get where we are at. My first X amount of starts, I think 3 or 4, were against teams we were playing right out of the gate or in division early on. They didn’t want the whole getting looks thing. You want to play in games. That’s why we are down here.
“I’ll be prepared and ready and excited for games when it’s my time.”
Not only was Sale’s Opening Day start aligned with the Cleveland Indians on Friday, but his Cactus League outings would have included the Oakland A’s on Wednesday and the Kansas City Royals on March 14. The Sox open the regular season in Oakland.
The White Sox know Sale won’t receive the same experience as if he pitched in front of a crowd. But it doesn’t mean they can’t complete a quality workout.
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Not only did Sale and Nate Jones face major leaguers (Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton were the sacrificial lambs), but Sale spent time working on his pickoff move. Pitching coach Don Cooper has been pleased with the efforts of both pitchers so far. Jones is expected to make his Cactus League debut on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.
“What we’re doing with Sale, what we did with Jones today, is focused, quality work,” Cooper said. “Sale left here today feeling very good because we had focused work on certain stuff. It might be arm-side two-seamers, it might be fastballs in on a righty, it could be different things, different days. With Jonesy, it was the same thing. We had certain things that we wanted to get better at. Pitching is an art. It’s a craft. The only way you can get better at it is in a sideline, something like this, or a game. So you’ve got to make best use of that time.”
An injury prevented Sale from playing in a Cactus League game last spring. He knows what he’s missing, the energy gained from a crowd or facing a major league hitter. But he also knows he’ll have three chances to pitch in exhibition games before the season begins.
“Sometimes adrenaline will get the best of you,” Sale said. “You start getting a little errant with your pitches. But other than that, it’s a bunch of stuff you’ve done in the past really. You can put yourself in scenarios and get mentally locked in as much as physically. You miss out in repetitions in games, but we are professionals and should be able to get that under control.”