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.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.