WhenWhen Chris Sale was drafted last year, the Sox had a clear path drawn for him. First, he was to get some seasoning in the minors where he pitched 10.1 innings. Next, he was to join the Sox bullpen around August. Sale performed well above expectations. The final step had the 21 year old battling for a rotation spot come spring training 2011 – that was before the arrival of Edwin Jackson. Kenny Williams has said he doesn’t see any reason not to stick to plan, so all signs point to Sale working out as a starter come spring training. For the 2011 season there are 3 options for Sale: start, relieve or both.
As a Starter
The long term plan for Sale is to be a starter. The obstacles for that is the fact that the Sox already have five starters; Peavy, Buehrle, Jackson, Danks and Floyd. Because Peavy will not be starting the season for the Sox due to his injury last year, using Sale as a replacement starter has been discussed. The Sox need to do one of two things in order to put him in the rotation full: trade one of the current starters or use a 6 man rotation.
The Sox could trade a starting pitcher since they are always in demand. The most probable candidates for being traded would include; Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson. Buehrle is on the list because of his contract situation. He is at the end of a deal which would more than likely not be renewed. This would open a lot of money for the Sox. Gavin Floyd has been mentioned in rumors to the Rockies but, because of his affordability, would be the least likely of the 3 to be moved. Everybody knows that Kenny got “Stuck” with Edwin Jackson as he planned to move him to get Adam Dunn at the deadline last year. He is also in the last year of a deal which would make him a prime candidate to be moved.
Next is the 6 man rotation. Kenny has brought up this option before. Following the 2005 World Series run Kenny suggested it as a way “to make sure everybody is strong throughout the season”, or as a way to lighten the load for the over-worked staff. This option will not happen because pitchers are creatures of habit that are used to pitching on 4 days rest. Don Cooper has said that he fully believes Sale could start and said nothing concerning his mechanics. “I know the delivery and what to look for, and with the way we do things with the White Sox, we’ve been doing it well here for a long time. I work hard to get this information. I see nothing with Sale that throws up a red flag … but listen; he’s going to have to get stronger”.
As a Reliever
This option is the most plausible for a few reasons. He could get more seasoning. The Sox could use an arm like his in the ‘pen which would also eliminate the starting rotation logjam. People need to remember Chris Sale has only pitched 23.1 innings in the Majors. Granted they have been an outstanding 23.1 innings but 23.1 innings none the less. Cooper, the person who knows him the best said “I also look back on Danks and when we had Clayton Richard, where you know in a guy’s rookie season there will be times he trips and falls and times he does well. It takes time and patience for us to get a guy on the line of a Danks”. Cooper would like to see the Southpaw work a little bit from the ‘pen. From a team standpoint, the biggest need for the Sox at this point is in the bullpen. Therefore, for his development and a team success standpoint, Sale should clearly be in the ‘pen.
This is the most debated issue relating to the usage of Chris Sale. Chris Sale would fill in for an injured and then move to the bullpen when Peavy is ready to come back. Don Cooper, who is not a fan of this option said, “I’m not sure the best thing for this kid is to start for X amount of days and weeks and then move him to the bullpen”. A player without a role or a player who has to jump from role to role doesn’t typically perform well. The Sox don’t need to use Sale in this way. The best option, I feel, would be using Tony Pena in the same spot starter role he was in last year.
The Sox will do what they feel is best for the organization and Don “The Arm Whisperer” Cooper will get the maximum out of Sale as he does with every pitcher. The way I would like it to work out is to have Sale close in 2011 with Matt Thornton setting him up and then in 2012 move Chris to the rotation and plug Sergio Santos in the closers role. Also, what’s the deal with the chain, Chris? It looks stupid, really, it does.