GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chris Sale threw 75 pitches in a “B” game Monday morning against the Los Angeles Dodgers and remains on track to make his Cactus League debut Saturday.
The ace left-hander threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. It was Sale’s third informal start, beginning with a side session March 4 and a simulated game March 9. The White Sox plan was to let Sale focus on getting his work in while shielding him from the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals early on. Sale’s start Saturday will come against the Dodgers.
“I felt great, I felt fine,” Sale said. “Command was a little off, but that’s kind of expected getting out there for the first time in a game against someone in a different uniform. It was nice. We did what we needed to do. Just build from there and keep moving forward.”
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Manager Robin Ventura said Sale looked “free and easy,” though noted his slider wasn’t crisp — as is the case with most breaking balls down here in Arizona. Sale’s best moment of his start probably was when he blew away Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal with a fastball to notch one of those four strikeouts.
Sale didn’t pitch in a Cactus League game last year after suffering an avulsion fracture in his right foot in late February, and due to that injury wasn’t the White Sox opening day starter. It didn’t affect his season — Sale set a franchise record with 274 strikeouts — but for what it’s worth, there’s a narrative with some bit of truth to it that the tone of 2015 was set on opening day in Kansas City.
That was when Jeff Samardzija was roughed up by the eventual World Series champion Royals as the White Sox limped to a 10-1 defeat. Sale starting that first game probably wouldn’t have significantly changed the team’s 76-86 record, but things just didn’t feel right from Day 1.
“Last year wasn’t necessarily a pitching thing that kept him from (starting opening day),” Ventura said. “But when you start the season you want everybody to be healthy and start out with everything that you have. I think he’s a big part of that.”
Sale ramped up his intensity a bit on Monday, at one point yelling to himself after missing his spot with a pitch. He was facing players who weren’t teammates for the first time, yes, but the “B” game atmosphere is akin to a high school game.
Not only is Sale looking forward to pitching in front of a larger crowd in a stadium, but he’s also excited to get on the field with more than one or two major league teammates for the first time this weekend.
“I think it’s time to get out to the big field and start playing with the grown-ups — no offense to anybody that I might have met,” Sale said. “There’s something to be said for fans being there, being in a big stadium, hearing the noise, the music in between innings, no rollovers. If you’re out there getting it handed to you, you’re out there until you get it over with. I’m ready for that.”