How will the White Sox use Chris Sale next season?

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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.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.