Chris Sale began this season by shifting from the bullpen to the rotation, moved back to the bullpen when the White Sox decided to name him closer, and then dealt with elbow soreness while making it very clear that he’d prefer to remain a starter.
Sale (and his agent) got his wish, returning to the rotation yesterday after an MRI exam showed no structural damage in his elbow and the results were … well, a mixed bag, mostly.
It looked like a potentially disastrous outing for Sale when he walked the first two batters he faced and then gave up singles to four of the next five hitters. However, he settled down after that and went on to throw five shutout innings after handing the Royals that early 3-0 lead.
And more importantly Sale felt healthy, telling Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago:
I feel as good as I have all season, so the credit goes to our training and medical staff who have worked have on keeping me strong and flexible. Learning how to deal with the process of having a minor injury was something new for me and beginning with the front office people and all the support staff I have been lucky to know they all have my best interest in mind.
Sale also reiterated how happy he was that manager Robin Ventura and general manager Ken Williams listened to his preference to remain in the rotation and made him a starter again even if it took a brief detour in the bullpen and some arm problems first.
Sale has proven that he can be a dominant late-inning reliever and that remains a long-term option, but he seemingly has the secondary pitches to thrive as a starter and so far has a 3.16 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 37 innings spread over six starts.