John Smoltz said he finds many impressive aspects to Chris Sales game, but one stands out above the rest: his competitive drive.
Last season, his first as a starting pitcher, the White Sox pitcher became an American League All-Star. He won 17 games. He struck out 192 batters in 192 innings. His slider is considered one of the best in the game.
But it was Sales ability to endure in uncharted territory that Smoltz found most impressive. Prior to last season, Sale had never combined for more than 144 13 innings in a single season.
He did a great job, basically with no history of innings, competing throughout the year, Smoltz said before he was inducted into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Rosemont on Saturday. I dont think anyone realizes how hard that is.
A future Hall of Famer, Smoltz, who won 213 games and saved 154 in a 21-year career, admits he wondered how Sale might hold up. He saw the wiry frame and the unorthodox delivery and wasnt sure it would last the season. Though his ERA was 4.11 over his last six starts, Smoltz no longer has any doubts about Sales ability to endure any stretches of fatigue.
Hes as good as it gets, Smoltz said. He is in a league by himself. I didnt know if that arm angle could sustain the kind of stuff you need to have to pitch through the whole season. Not only could he sustain it, but it was dominating.
Smoltz didnt stop there, however.
Hes also impressed by how the lanky left-hander and the White Sox handled the situation with the media.
At least out in front, Smoltz said. Maybe behind the scenes he was tired, but he never conveyed This is too much or Im getting tired and I think the organization and him handled it about as good as you can handle it.