In September, White Sox general manager Ken Williams stated that 2010 first-round pick Chris Sale would have a chance to win a spot in the starting rotation next spring.
One scenario Williams discussed at the time is that the young left-hander could function as an insurance policy if Jake Peavy needs more time to bounce back from surgery to repair a torn lat muscle. Well, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper recently told Scott Merkin of MLB.com that he isn’t so sure about that plan.
“If Peavy ain’t ready, I’m not sure the best thing for a young kid is to start for X amount of days and weeks and then move him to the bullpen. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Sale to be in the bullpen and get more experience and then make him a starter. Years ago, that’s the way a lot of organizations did it.”
Sale, who turns 22 next March, thrived as a reliever after being promoted to the major leagues in August, posting a 1.93 ERA and 32/10 K/BB ratio over 23 1/3 innings. The lanky lefty held the opposition scoreless in 17 out of his 21 appearances.
Both Williams and Cooper see Sale as a starting pitcher in the long-term, but the White Sox potentially have an abundance of riches in their starting rotation next season. If Peavy bounces back from surgery without a hitch — obviously far from a given — the White Sox also have Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson under team control. Barring injury or a potential trade, it’s hard to see Sale getting a legitimate shot, at least in the short-term.
Merkin believes that Tony Pena is more likely to be a temporary fill-in for the starting rotation. Pena, who is arbitration-eligible this winter, posted a mediocre 5.10 ERA and 56/45 K/BB ratio over 100 2/3 innings this past season. He made three starts down the stretch after Gavin Floyd was shut down due to shoulder tightness.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.