Don Cooper doesn’t want the White Sox to mess with Chris Sale

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The White Sox just officially announced a two-year, $4 million contract with left-handed reliever Will Ohman.

When the agreement was initially reported on Saturday, many immediately speculated (including myself) that his addition to the bullpen would push Matt Thornton to the closer role and Chris Sale to the rotation if Jake Peavy isn’t ready for the start of the season after shoulder surgery.

Well, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper reiterated to Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago over the weekend that he isn’t into that idea.

“I’m not favor of that,” Cooper said, when asked if Sale would be used as a starter until an injured Jake Peavy returned. “It’s unfair and too much to ask of a young guy until he has a chance to get himself situated.”

“If he starts, he starts and starts all year. To start for a month, I don’t like the sound or the feel of that. But I’m speaking for myself only. I haven’t talked to [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] or [general manager] Kenny [Williams] on any of this.”

Sale, who was selected 13th overall last June, made his major league debut last August and posted a 1.93 ERA and 32/10 K/BB ratio over 23 1/3 innings down the stretch. Though the White Sox used him exclusively in relief, the 21-year-old southpaw was drafted as a starting pitcher out of Florida Gulf Cost University. However, with Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and a healthy Peavy, it’s unlikely Sale will be a full-time starter for the club, at least in 2011.

While Cooper is still optimistic that Peavy will be ready for the start of the season, he named Tony Pena, Charlie Leesman and Lucas Harrell as some potential short-term alternatives for the final spot in the rotation.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.