Blackhawks

After brilliant 2012, Sale calculating the next step

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After brilliant 2012, Sale calculating the next step

Chris Sale's first year as a starter with the White Sox was thoroughly impressive, with the 23-year-old lefty compiling a 3.05 ERA with 192 strikeouts in 192 innings. He earned a pitcher of the month honor, threw an inning in the All-Star Game and finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting.

So what's the next thing for Sale to accomplish, given his breakout 2012 season?

"No hitters," quipped manager Robin Ventura.

"For him, he's getting stronger, I think he understands what it takes to go the full year," Ventura added in a more serious tone. "But we're happy with his progress. He's a talented kid, we're lucky to have him and just keep him healthy."

Sale slowed down in August and September last season, throwing 68 innings over 11 starts with a 3.84 ERA with 12 home runs and 20 walks allowed. From April through July, Sale had a 2.61 ERA with seven home runs and 31 walks allowed in 124 innings covering 18 starts and one short-lived relief appearance.

The slender left-hander said he added 15 pounds in the offseason, with the gain mainly concentrated in his legs. He said he's eating better and working on his core strength, all in an effort to be as good as he was in the first four months of 2012 throughout the entire 2013 season.

"Last season, I felt like I kinda fizzled out late," Sale said. "Those are the most important innings. It doesn't matter how good you are in May, April, June, July -- August and September is when it's really crunch time, and that's when I want to be at my best. I just want to build enough strength to be at my best at the end of the season and kind of be that guy that I was at the beginning of the season."

Sale's average fastball velocity dipped below 92 miles per hour in September, which statistically was his worst month of the season. In six starts in the season's final full month, Sale allowed 16 runs with 37 strikeouts, 12 walks and four home runs allowed in 35 innings, good for a 4.11 ERA. Opponents had a .785 OPS against Sale as the White Sox stumbled to a second-place finish.

"There were starts where I felt great and I'd go out there and give up five or six runs," Sale explained. "There were times where I didn't feel so good and those would be some of my better games. So you don't really pinpoint this or that on production or outcome of the game, you kinda go based on feeling. I want to feel at my peak later on in the season and kinda be able to see the season through and make all my starts and be the guy I need to be for this team."

Ventura recently said he expects to hold Sale back at the start of spring training games, which runs a week longer this year due to the World Baseball Classic. The White Sox will continue to treat their most prized pitcher with care, doing whatever they can to keep him on the mound and off the disabled list. Last year, that meant pushing a few of his starts back or skipping them entirely.

While Washington opted to shut down their own burgeoning ace in Stephen Strasburg late last season, the White Sox didn't go that route. But the intent of both team's strategies were the same.

Addison Reed played with both -- at San Diego State with Strasburg, and in the White Sox organization with Sale -- and the closer explained how imperative it is to have someone like Sale or Strasburg for a full season, even if it means going to great lengths to do so.

"Those guys are pretty important to a team. They could make or break a whole season," Reed said. "I think with them being smart with Sale, that will do nothing but help us out. As long as we keep him healthy, I think we have a pretty good chance."

NHL mock draft roundup: Experts predict who Blackhawks will take at No. 3

NHL mock draft roundup: Experts predict who Blackhawks will take at No. 3

VANCOUVER — For months, Blackhawks fans have been studying every mock draft there is to get an idea of who their team might take when they pick third overall on Friday.

With the NHL Draft one day away, let's look at who the experts are saying will go No. 3 overall to the Blackhawks:

Kevin Allen, USA TODAY: C Alex Turcotte

Craig Button, TSN: C Alex Turcotte

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: C Alex Turcotte

Sam Kosentino, Sportsnet: C Trevor Zegras

Steve Kournianos, Sporting News: D Bowen Byram

Guillaume Lepage, NHL.com: C Dylan Cozens

Mike Morreale, NHL.com: C Alex Turcotte

Chris Peters, ESPN: C Alex Turcotte

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: D Bowen Byram

In total: five experts picked Turcotte, who led the way; two experts picked Byram, one expert picked Cozens; and one expert picked Zegras. The Blackhawks clearly have options at No. 3. And we will find out soon enough who it will be.

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Zion, Morant, Barrett: Pick-by-pick analysis from Round 1 of the NBA Draft

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USA TODAY

Zion, Morant, Barrett: Pick-by-pick analysis from Round 1 of the NBA Draft

Here's how the 2019 NBA Draft is shaking out with some quick analysis on each pick.

1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

A no-brainer pick for the Pelicans. Williamson is as close to a perfect prospect as the league has seen since LeBron James in 2003. He's the face of the franchise and a team that will rebuild quickly post-Anthony Davis.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

The second best prospect in the class and a player who fills a need for the Grizzlies in the wake of trading away 12-year veteran Mike Conley. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. is a heckuva 1-2 punch to begin a rebuild.

3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke

He's not a perfect prospect but Barrett should do well in New York. He knows what it's like playing with big names (Zion Williamson), and he'll fit nicely alongside the free agent(s) the Knicks bring in with their max cap space.

4. Atlanta Hawks (via NO, LA): De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

The Hawks paid a steep price to move up four spots and make sure they got their man. They're set offensively with Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Heurter and now have a defensive whiz in Hunter.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

He was the best prospect available and head coach John Beilein likes two ball handlers in his backcourts, so both he and last year's top pick, Collin Sexton, should be able to co-exist.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (via PHX): Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

The Timberwolves are big winners on draft night. They got one of the better prospects in the draft and all it cost them was Dario Saric. Culver is an outstanding two-way guard who is a jump shot away from being an All-Star.

7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG, North Carolina

8. New Orleans Pelicans (via ATL):

9. Washington Wizards:

10. Atlanta Hawks (via DAL):

11. Phoenix Suns (via MIN):

12. Charlotte Hornets:

13. Miami Heat:

14. Boston Celtics (via SAC):

15. Detroit Pistons: 

16. Orlando Magic:

17. New Orleans Pelicans (via ATL):

18. Indiana Pacers:

19. San Antonio Spurs:

20. Boston Celtics (via LAC, MEM):

21. Oklahoma City Thunder:

22. Boston Celtics:

23. Utah Jazz:

24. Philadelphia 76ers:

25. Portland Trail Blazers:

26: Cleveland Cavaliers (via HOU):

27. Brooklyn Nets (via DEN):

28. Golden State Warriors:

29. San Antonio Spurs (via TOR):

30. Milwaukee Bucks: