Chris Sale moves back to the pen, takes over as White Sox closer

6 Comments

Now this one is a real shocker: Chris Sale, who has been very impressive in opening the season 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in his rotation debut for the White Sox, will move back to the pen and take over as the team’s closer, it was announced Friday.

Health concerns are the obvious reasoning behind the switch, though the White Sox indicated he’d be ready to pitch out of the pen right away. It’s a bizarre move if it’s completely preemptive. If it’s not and he is hurting now, then it’s still bizarre, since it’d make sense to give him at least a week or two off.

From a performance standpoint, Sale’s move to the rotation couldn’t have possibly gone any better. Not only was his record sterling, but he had cut down on the walks and become more efficient with his pitches. On April 25, he needed just 101 pitches — 71 strikes — to get through eight innings against the A’s. In his win Tuesday, he threw 88 pitches in six innings against the Indians.

This also certainly isn’t a case of the White Sox needing Sale more in the bullpen than in the rotation. Hector Santiago had struggled in the closer’s role, but he never figured to be more than the team’s fourth or fifth best reliever anyway. Addison Reed, who has all the makings of a long-term closer, still hasn’t given up a run in 8 2/3 innings this year. Matt Thornton has a 2.38 ERA.  Jesse Crain, though hurt at the moment, is another quality arm.

Meanwhile, the White Sox are likely taking a big downgrade in the rotation by promoting Dylan Axelrod into Crain’s spot. Axelrod was a great find for the team after being let go by the Padres, but he’s not going to open eyes with his stuff. He’s probably going to be a long-term middle reliever, as opposed to a decent fourth or fifth starter.

All in all, it seems like a very odd choice from the outside looking in. Still, if the White Sox think this is the best way to keep Sale healthy, we’ll just have to trust them on that for now. It is a real shame, though. Sale was looking like a legitimate No. 2 starter, and he’s never going to produce that kind of value out of the pen.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.