White Sox

Sox Drawer: Conversation with the kid

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Sox Drawer: Conversation with the kid

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010
6:57 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs one-hundred nothing. A man, who a very short time ago was just a kid, seemingly closer to Little League than the Major Leagues.

Just dont tell that to Shin-Soo Choo, Johnny Damon, Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, and Nick Swisher who are a combined 0-for-10 against him.

His name is Chris Sale, who just three months after being drafted by the White Sox, has become quite the bargain.

Before taking on the Tigers Wednesday night, Chris and I chatted by phone about his improbable ascension through the minor leagues, his immediate impact with the White Sox, how he retired the best hitter in the game on three pitches, and then some.

Chuck Garfien: Hey Chris. So I was doing some research for this interview, and came across the year you were born, and immediately felt very old. For those reading this, what year were you born?

Chris Sale: 1989.

Garfien: Which is the year I graduated from high school.

Sale: Oh wow.

Garfien: Thanks. So, do you consider music from the 1980s to be oldies?

Sale: Well, I consider my parents to be old. They were into music from the 50s and 60s.

Garfien: But you see thats the problem. Im almost old enough to be one of your parents. Dont worry. Ill get over it. But can you clear up a rumor for me? Is it true that Scott Linebrink is your grandfather?

Sale: (Laughs) No. But we gave him a hard time the other day. We call him Papa Bear, because whenever we walk out to the bullpen before the game, he makes sure were all together and gets us all corralled so we go out there as a group.

Garfien: And he does kind of look like Papa Bear, too.

Sale: No comment on that.
Garfien: I want to go back to when you started playing baseball. When did you realize that you could throw the ball harder than everybody else your age?

Sale: Honestly, I didnt even start throwing too hard until I got to college. As a senior in high school I was throwing about 84-89. Every once in a while Id hit 90. But it wasnt until probably the fall of my sophomore year that I started throwing into the low 90s and every once in a while there would be a 94 or 95.

Garfien: So what happened? What changed for you that allowed you to throw harder than you had before?
Sale: Probably a combination of everything. Working out everyday, getting my arm stronger by throwing everyday, and eating better, getting some better food in my body.

Garfien: But looking at you, it appears that you dont eat anything!

Sale: Yeah, I get that a lot. Fans in the stands tell me that I need to eat more. Theyre already saying, Do they feed you in Chicago?

Garfien: Is it apart of your DNA to be really thin? I can relate to that. I was an anemic twig up until I was about 22 years old.

Sale: Oh yeah. My grandfathers nickname is Streamline because he was a swimmer and he looked like a long skinny line swimming in the water. People to this day still call him that. There are people who dont even know his real name. They just call him Streamline. My dad had a size 28 or 30 waist when he got married. Everyone in my family was really skinny when they were growing up, so Im not surprised.
Garfien: When the White Sox drafted you, how realistic was it that you could get to the majors this quickly?
Sale: I didnt really think about it too much. When I signed early on, they told me I would have the opportunity to move up quickly. I was looking forward to playing and getting in the innings, and to come back next spring with a chance to move up. I was pitching well, and then I got the call in August that I was coming up with the team, and it was unbelievable. A dream come true. Imagine sitting back six or seven months ago, and suddenly being in this position. Its the greatest thing thats happened to me as far as baseball.
Garfien: So you pitch 10 innings in the minor leagues, you come up here, you obviously have confidence in your ability, but was there a part of you that was saying, Okay, can I really do this so quickly in my career?

Sale: Oh yeah. I certainly didnt start acting like I was calm, cool, and collected about it. I was excited, but at the same time I was really nervous. I was facing college hitters, then I was facing minor league guys, and now Im pitching against guys who I watched on TV growing up, and played on their teams in video games just because they hit the ball so far. I was definitely a little nervous coming up, but things have worked out well, and Im getting more comfortable on the mound everytime.

Garfien: Ozzie Guillen says that what he likes about you is that you have guts. Have you been like that with everything in life, or does it just manifest itself when youre on the pitching mound?

Sale: When I take the mound, I just like to be intense. I was just talking about it with Linebrink yesterday, to just go out there and be focused on what Im doing and not taking off a pitch. Every pitch being 100 percent confident, and be locked in for every single pitch.

Garfien: A couple weeks ago against the Twins, you struck out Joe Mauer on three straight sliders. What was your mind-set there? Take me back to that moment. What was going on in your head, facing Mauer, one of the best hitters in the game, and youre saying, Im going to get him out with three straight sliders."

Sale: A.J. Pierzynski was the one calling the pitches. Obviously I had never faced Mauer. I just didnt want him to get a chance to open up the game, so we were just being careful with him. It ended up being a good situation for us. After I threw the first one, I just wanted to get it in there for a strike. The second one, I wanted to make him chase it a little bit. And the third one, A.J. called for a third slider in a row, and I was like, Alright, whatever. Here it goes. And I just wanted to throw it towards the strike zone and let it break down, and it ended up working out well.

Garfien: Youre a major league pitcher now, but youre also a human being. When you walked off the mound after doing that, was there a part of you that said, Did I just do that?
Sale: Oh yeah. Theres a part of me still saying that.

Garfien: Your first major league win came on Monday against the Tigers. You threw 2 23 scoreless, hitless innings in relief. What was that feeling like for you, and was there a beer shower involved?

Sale: Yes, there was definitely a beer shower. It was awesome being able to go out there and get that first win. Its unbelievable.
Garfien: Are you liking being a reliever? Or is starting pitching you really want to do?

Sale: It really doesnt matter to me. I just want to have the opportunity to pitch. Whatever they want to do. If they end up changing their mind and say, We want to keep you in the pen, Ill be fine with that. If they tell me in the spring that they want me to come back and be a starter, thats fine too. Whatever they think. Thats what Im going to do.

Garfien: And finally, is there a funny story or moment thats happened in your major league career thats going to stay with you for a very long time. It could be on the field, off the field, that you feel like sharing.
Sale: This whole experience! Are you kidding me? Its been surreal. Obviously, being drafted in the first round. It was unbelievable. Signing early, and playing, and being in a pennant race at 21-years-old, and moving through the system so quick, I couldnt have asked for anything better. I still come to the park everyday and its just like, Wow, this is awesome. This is what Ive worked for my whole life, to get this opportunity, and Im just trying to make the best of it.
Garfien: Well, you certainly have. Good luck tonight.
Sale: Thanks.

Dallas Keuchel apologizes in wake of Astros' sign-stealing scandal: 'I personally am sorry'

Dallas Keuchel apologizes in wake of Astros' sign-stealing scandal: 'I personally am sorry'

Dallas Keuchel started his White Sox tenure with an apology.

Keuchel said he was sorry Friday, the first player to do so in the aftermath of baseball busting Keuchel’s former club, the Houston Astros, for using technology to steal signs during their run to a world championship in 2017.

Keuchel didn’t get into too many specifics, nor did he reveal whether he played any kind of role in the Astros’ process of relaying the signs of opposing catchers via a center field camera and a monitor near the dugout, then alerting teammates to what sort of pitch was coming by banging on a trashcan in the dugout.

But he did apologize, doing so, perhaps, in an effort to speak for that group of players who have been the subject of much discussion since Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired earlier this month.

“I think, first and foremost, I think apologies should be in order,” Keuchel said before the opening ceremonies of SoxFest at McCormick Place. “When the stuff was going on, it was never intended to be what it’s made to be right now. I think when stuff comes out about some things that happen during the course of a big league ball season, it’s always blown up to the point of, ‘Oh my gosh, this has never happened before.’

“I’m not going to go into specific detail, but during the course of the playoffs in ‘17, everybody was using multiple signs. For factual purposes, when there’s nobody on base, when in the history of Major League Baseball has there been multiple signs? You can go back and watch film of every team in the playoffs, there were probably six out of eight teams with multiple signs. It’s just what the state of baseball was at that point in time.

“Was (what the Astros did) against the rules? Yes, it was, and I personally am sorry for what’s come about, the whole situation. But it is what it is, and we’ve got to move past that. I never thought anything would’ve come like it did, and I, myself, feel sorry. But you’ve got to move on.”

While no players have been punished for their roles in what happened in 2017, it remains somewhat head-scratching as to why the uber-talented Astros thought they even needed to do this sort of thing to reach the top of the baseball mountain.

Keuchel said Friday that sometimes the sign-stealing did give the Astros an edge and sometimes it didn't.

"To the extent of the whole situation back then, I can tell you that not every game there was signs being stolen," he said. "Some guys did a really good job. And sometimes we did as a group have signs, but we still couldn't hit the pitcher. So it wasn't like every game we had everything going on so at that point that's when the whole system, it really works a little bit, but at the same time there was a human element where some guys were better than our hitters."

In addition to offering up his own apology, Keuchel ever so briefly weighed in on the still-hot-button topic of whether former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers was right to act as a whistleblower and reveal details of the sign-stealing to the commissioner.

"That's a tough subject because it's such a tight-knit community in the clubhouse and in baseball, especially," Keuchel said. "You're playing 162 games, at least, in the regular season, plus spring training and then maybe in the playoffs, if you're lucky. So you're pushing 185 to 200 games (with each other), and it sucks to the extent of that the clubhouse rule was broken. And that's where I'll go with that. I don't have much else to say about Mike."

As for where things go from here, that remains to be seen. The Boston Red Sox remain under investigation for allegations of similar behavior during their run to a World Series title a year later. Alex Cora was the bench coach with the 2017 Astros and the manager of the 2018 Red Sox, and though baseball has not levied any specific punishment toward him yet, the Red Sox fired him. Carlos Beltran, the only player from the 2017 Astros mentioned in commissioner Rob Manfred's summary of the investigation, was fired from his briefly held post as the manager of the New York Mets.

"There are a lot of people who are sorry in that organization, including myself, for what happened," he said. "Do pitchers benefit from any of that? I mean, not really. But at the same time, we might've had a few runs more per game.

"In my instance, I did not. I was actually pretty mad about that, I didn't really enjoy that sometimes, but it is what it is and it just happened to come out that Mike said something and who knows.

"I don't think anybody else is going to come out and say anything from other teams. They see what happens now."

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Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Last spring, Michael Kopech said Eloy Jimenez was the Babe Ruth of this generation. Jimenez returned the favor by calling Kopech this generation's Nolan Ryan.

Well, start blocking out a wing of the Hall of Fame for members of the 2020 White Sox, because we've got another comp for the ages.

Obviously, everyone's very excited to see Luis Robert hit the major leagues. Jimenez is cranking that excitement up to 11.

"Some people are going to call me crazy," he said Friday before SoxFest kicked off at McCormick Place, "but he’s going to be the next Mike Trout.

"He has five tools, and he plays hard like Mike Trout."

Well then.

Trout has long been considered the best baseball player on the planet, someone who's putting up hall of Fame numbers on an annual basis to the extent that folks wonder if he's the best to ever play.

Should Robert come anywhere close to that, White Sox fans will be quite pleased.

Certainly the praise is not entirely unwarranted, with Robert boasting a full toolbox of baseball skills. He's fresh off a 2019 campaign that saw him set the minor leagues on fire: a .328/.376/.624 slash line to go along with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored, 31 doubles and 36 stolen bases. Along the way he sent highlight after highlight back to his adoring public on the South Side, clips of him blasting balls into the Charlotte sky, making eye-popping catches and using his blazing speed to great effect.

The defensive skill ought to be especially intriguing to Jimenez, who's going to play next to Robert in the White Sox outfield. But while Jimenez's defensive improvement will continue to be a big focus in 2020, so will Robert's range in center field. Jimenez has a plan, though, if Robert tries to steal away any of his fly balls.

"I’m going to draw a line," Jimenez said with a smile. "If he goes over the line, I’m going to punch him. It’s going to be like that this year."

It was just the minor leagues, of course, but those descriptions aren't terribly dissimilar from the ones frequently assigned to Trout out in Anaheim.

You likely won't hear Rick Hahn or Rick Renteria comparing Robert to the best player in the game, not wanting to put too much pressure on the 22-year-old. Jimenez knows as well as anyone how difficult the transition to the majors can be, even for the most talented athletes in the world. He set the minors ablaze in 2018, only to experience growing pains as opposing pitchers attacked him like a proven veteran.

So seeing something similar from Robert would not be surprising.

"Last year, I was a little bit anxious," Jimenez said, "and I know he’s going to be, too.

"The first year of your contract, you play on Opening Day, it’s going to be a little bit tough for him, too. It’s not going to be (tough) just for him, it’s for anybody who makes the Opening Day roster. It’s a little bit tough because it’s different pitching, it’s different stuff and the pitchers are a lot better at this level.

"He’s going to need someone. But he’s got (Jose) Abreu, he’s got (Yoan) Moncada and he’s got me. So he’s going to be good."

One of the biggest differences between Jimenez's ascent to the major leagues and Robert's is that Robert is joining a White Sox team with playoff expectations. Between the young core that broke out in such a big way last season and all the newcomers Hahn's front office brought in this winter, the White Sox look ready to vault into contention mode. Robert's arrival is a factor in those expectations, too, so while it might seem like the spotlight can be lured away by other players, Jimenez said it will be tough for Robert to adjust to the big leagues in relative obscurity.

"When you have five tools," he said, "everybody’s going to have their eyes on you."

Well put.

If he truly is the next Trout, then he'll never lose that spotlight. Though playing alongside the next Ruth and the next Ryan, a couple fellow future Hall of Famers, ought to help.

That might sound a little crazy, as Jimenez well knows. But he's sticking to that comp.

"You will see."

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