Jack McDowell is impressed with the way Chris Sale has continued to develop over the course of his career.
The last White Sox pitcher to win a Cy Young Award appreciates how Sale -- who Thursday joined Ed Cicotte as the only pitchers in franchise history to win their first nine starts -- has attacked the strike zone this season.
McDowell, who won the award in 1993 when he went 22-8 with a 3.37 ERA, said Friday he sees how Sale has tried to be more efficient and thinks it has taken him to a new level. The pitcher formerly known as “Black Jack” is at U.S. Cellular for White Sox homecoming weekend along with Tim Raines, Lance Johnson and Roberto Hernandez.
“He’s coming into his own,” McDowell said. “He’s pounding the strike zone. He’s going after guys. I’ve told guys forever -- hitters don’t know what to do when you do that. When you don’t pitch so much and try to get them to do things and say, ‘Here’s my stuff, here it is and I’m going to throw it over the plate.’ And they go, ‘Ugh.’ ”
A first-round draft pick in 1987, McDowell pitched in parts of seven seasons for the White Sox. He amassed a 91-58 record with a 3.50 ERA in 191 starts.
McDowell spent the past two seasons as a manager in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. A tall, skinny pitcher as well, McDowell, who also finished in second place on the 1992 Cy ballot, said it was three years ago in spring training when Sale specifically asked about him the proposition of adding weight to his frame.
“I went through that, being a 6-5, 175-pounder out of college,” McDowell said. “We talked about it and I said, ‘Do you feel good?’ He said he feels good. ‘Do you feel strong? Do you feel normal? Then don’t beat it up. It’s either going to happen or it’s not.’ ”
McDowell thinks the direction Sale is headed is the correct one. The results would seem to back that assertion as Sale already has three complete games, one shy of his career total. Even though Sale has better stuff than he did, McDowell has always believed the pitcher would beat the thrower.
“Just watching him this year, it’s not about the strikeout, it’s about pounding the zone and putting the pressure on the hitters,” McDowell said.
“I didn’t have the kind of putaway stuff that Chris does at all. My whole deal was to go after guys and make them put the ball in play.
“If you were a guy with lesser stuff than a Chris Sale and you’ve got that approach, you’re going to have more success than going the other way. Trust me.”