Jake Peavy’s uncertain status has Chris Sale preparing to be a starter in 2011

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Earlier this week White Sox general manager Kenny Williams indicated that he expects Jake Peavy to begin 2011 on the disabled list following shoulder surgery and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that Chris Sale, who thrived out of the bullpen as a rookie, has “embarked on an offseason program designed for him to step into the rotation.”

Pitching coach Don Cooper has said previously that he’d prefer if Sale began 2011 in the bullpen again and gradually transitioned into starting during the season, but with Peavy looking unlikely to be ready for Opening Day and perhaps being out for the first several months of the season it makes more sense to have Sale starting from Day 1.

Cooper told Gonzales that the decision is ultimately the GM’s call, saying: “Whatever Kenny wants to do, we’ll do.” Barring a trade Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, and Gavin Floyd are locked in as the White Sox’s top four starters, leaving Sale or Tony Pena as the likely candidates for the No. 5 spot.

Sale made his big-league debut in early August, just two months after being the 13th overall pick in the draft, and tossed 23.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 32/10 K/BB ratio in 21 appearances, all out of the bullpen. However, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was a full-time starter in college and led the NCAA in strikeouts during his final season at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Dusty Baker expects Stephen Strasburg to make his next scheduled start

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Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg lasted only two innings in Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks. The right-hander reportedly had trouble getting loose and it showed: he yielded a hit and three walks to the 10 batters he faced. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Strasburg had “some nerve impingement that has been alleviated.”

Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to make his next scheduled start on Saturday at home against the Rockies, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Strasburg was examined by doctors, who deemed him to be in good shape — enough to not warrant undergoing an MRI.

Through 20 starts, Strasburg owns a 3.25 ERA with a 141/37 K/BB ratio across 121 2/3 innings. Though the injury scare isn’t what the Nationals hoped for, he’s done well in the first year of his seven-year, $175 million contract extension.

John Lackey hit four White Sox batters today

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Cubs starter John Lackey didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field against the White Sox. The right-hander hit four White Sox batters over the course of five innings. He yielded just two runs, though, on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He left with a 4-2 lead.

Lackey hit Jose Abreu with one out in the first inning, then hit Abreu again in the fifth. He then hit Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada shortly thereafter. Chris Beck relieved Carlos Rodon for the White Sox in the bottom of the fifth and promptly hit Ian Happ with a fastball to lead off the frame. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale issued warnings to both benches and the beanings stopped.

So, how often do pitchers hit four batters in a game? Not that often! The last to do it was the Reds’ Josh Smith on July 4, 2015 against the Brewers. Before that, it was the Nationals’ Livan Hernandez on July 20, 2005 against the Rockies. Lackey is only the ninth pitcher to hit four batters in a game since 2000 and the 26th since 1913. The only other Cubs pitcher to do it besides Lackey was Moe Drabowsky in 1957.