White Sox

Chris Sale establishes strikeout record in White Sox win over Tigers

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Chris Sale establishes strikeout record in White Sox win over Tigers

Chris Sale knew he was on the verge of a breaking a 107-year-old franchise record on Friday night and wanted to accomplish it in unique fashion.

What better way than an Eephus pitch?

While the four-time White Sox All-Star couldn’t get James McCann to bite on the trick pitch, he needed only two more deliveries to establish a new White Sox record for strikeouts in a season. In his final start of the season, Sale struck out seven batters as he paced the White Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sale finished the season with 274 whiffs to break Hall of Famer Ed Walsh’s single-season mark of 269 set in 1908.

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“I wish that Eephus fell in there for a strike,” Sale said. “It is something that came into my mind. I thought if there’s nobody on base and I get a guy with two strikes, let’s flip one in there just for fun. The worst thing that happens is I give up a homer. And I did that before so got that out of the way.”

As he closed in on the mark, Sale didn’t hide it very well as he pumped 98-99 mph fastballs to Tigers hitters in the first two innings.

Catcher Tyler Flowers could tell Sale was fired up andbelieves that resulted in a missed location to Jefry Marte, whose solo homer in the second put Detroit ahead 1-0.

“A lot times it’s obvious when he’s jacked up and I knew it right away,” Flowers said. “It cost us that homer. We missed a spot really bad. 

[MORE: Ventura to return to White Sox in 2016]

“We were trying to get it out of the way and just get back to pitching and get deep in the game and win.”

Though he started McCann off with a ball, Sale threw consecutive fastballs and got a swinging strike and a foul ball. That’s when the Eephus pitch popped into his head but Sale sailed it high and wide. He missed with a 2-2 slider but went back to it again on thefull count and got the call on the outside corner from plate umpire Doug Eddings.

After the strikeout, the home crowd, which had perked up when Sale reached two strikes, gave him a standing ovation as Styx ‘Come Sail Away’ played over the sound system. Because he was aware of the record -- “I couldn’t really pitch until I got it and after that I settled in,” he said -- Sale paused and afforded himself the chance to enjoy the moment.

“Looking over to the dugout seeing everybody standing up and the crowd was going crazy so that took a little to soak in and appreciate that moment,” Sale said. “It comes and goes real quick, but I’ll never forget that.”

[ALSO: White Sox fire bench coach Mark Parent]

Sale was far more efficient in his pursuit of the legendary White Sox pitcher as he averaged a franchise-record 11.82 strikeouts per nine. Whereas Walsh needed 464 innings to record the mark, Sale did it in 203.

In between, Sale -- whose previous career high was 226 strikeouts -- matched runs previously set by Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez in a historic run. He struck out 10-plus batters in eight straight starts to tie Martinez for the longest streak in major league history and fanned at least a dozen batters in five straight starts to join Martinez and Johnson as the only pitchers to ever accomplish that feat.

And to think, he did it all without the benefit of a full spring training. Sale missed a month of action from February to March with a broken bone in his right foot and only appeared in two minor-league games before the season began.

“To be able to come back and do this is special,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It just puts him up there with the elite. Tonight, it just seemed like there was a little something extra in there even right from the start. Sometimes you sit there and wonder, three strikeouts can be tough. But he went right after it I thought. He laid it all out there.”

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.