Chris Sale hadn't pitched in nine days and everybody was glued to the radar guns as he took the mound Monday evening at U.S. Cellular Field.
He did not disappoint.
After hovering around 90 mph July 27 in Texas, concerns about Sale's drop in velocity evaporated as the 23-year-old was consistently hurtling his fastball in the 93-95 mph range Monday.
"You watch him and you look for maybe signs of velocity down or not being as sharp," manager Robin Ventura said. "But it looks like it was enough that he had what he needed to go out there and pitch well and feel confident."
Sale threw 101 pitches on the night, touching 93 mph with pitch No. 100.
"It felt good, it felt loose," he said. "I tried not to do too much. Sometimes, when you feel a little bit too loose, you try to rear back and do a little bit too much and that was the thing I was trying not to do."
The third-year left-hander allowed two home runs, but both were solo shots, as he didn't walk a batter all night. He allowed eight hits in eight innings.
"I liked him," Ventura said. "They got him a couple times, but just the way he pitched, he battled. He was sharp and felt fine."
Sale got into a bit of a jam in the eighth inning as back-to-back hits to open up the Royals half put runners on first and third with nobody out. But the youngster induced a soft lineout to shortstop Alexei Ramirez before nabbing Tony Abreu at the plate on a nifty defensive play.
Sale then whiffed Lorenzo Cain for his seventh and final strikeout.
Before the game, the White Sox officially went back to a five-man rotation, moving Philip Humber to the bullpen. Sale has already blown past his professional high in innings pitched (132 this year compared to 71 last season), but doesn't anticipate any more bumps in the road in the final two months of the season.
After Monday's outing, Sale said he felt ready to go back to the regular rotation of four days rest.
"That's what you gotta do," he said. "That's normal, so I'll just take it day-by-day. I'll get my work in and make sure I'm ready every fifth day.
"These last two months, we're going to have to make a push, so I don't see any extended rest in my future."