GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there’s a benefit to Chris Sale’s foot injury last spring, the White Sox learned what their ace pitcher can do even with minimal game action.
Almost a year to the day (Feb. 27) after he broke a bone in his right foot that sidelined him for three weeks, the White Sox said Friday that Sale won’t pitch in any Cactus League games until mid-March.
The catch is that this time, Sale, who’s first set to pitch March 19, is healthy. Even though has was limited to two minor-league appearances last spring, the White Sox are confident Sale can perform in April even with minimal action against major leaguers. They’ve based their belief on Sale going 13-11 with a 3.41 ERA in 31 starts last season and leading the American League in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.73) and strikeouts (274).
“Last year he was throwing against A-ballers all spring because he hurt his foot,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “And then he comes out and he’s full bore for us and certainly did great. “We’re slowing him down a little bit.
“He’s just got a little different schedule.”
Cooper described most of Sale’s future scheduled work as “behind the scenes.”
Sale does have a second round of live batting practice on the docket Saturday. But from there he’ll mostly work in simulated games and perhaps take on another minor-league squad. He isn’t set to pitch in a Cactus League game until the White Sox host the Dodgers on March 19.
“It’s more of a controlled thing that we can get his work in and just make it earlier in the day as well,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
Last week, Sale suggested he didn’t think the schedule was out of the ordinary, either.
Same as last offseason season, Sale said he started to work out earlier and throw later.
“Coop and I have bounced ideas off of each other with that for this spring training, kind of building up while we are here, but just maintaining strength and staying in the weight room,” Sale said.
The familiarity with Sale is the big key -- “If this was his first spring, we wouldn’t do it that way,” Cooper said.
The evidence helps, too.
The White Sox liked how Sale threw last April as he posted a 2.37 ERA in his first 19 innings en route to establishing a franchise-record for strikeouts.
“He did it last year,” Cooper said. “We need to get his innings and pitches up, I can tell you that. We’re going to do it in a lower leveraged, stressed kind of environment. Simulated games, stuff like that where we’re working on stuff -- his arm-side stuff, working on the opposite side, back door breaking ball and specific stuff on days as we go.
“We seem to do that every spring, but now it’s more by design. Why? Because we know him, we know how he goes and we’ll make the adjustment there.”