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Chris Sale eyes taking on bigger load in second season as starter

Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale works second inning Chicago White Sox 5-4 wover ClevelIndians Monday September 24 2012 U.S. Cellular

Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale works in the second inning of the Chicago White Sox 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians Monday September 24, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:38AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — While endorsing Jake Peavy as the Opening Day starter, Chris Sale beamed at the thought of taking the ball himself when the White Sox host the Kansas City Royals on April 1.

‘‘That would be crazy,’’ Sale said Tuesday, when Sox pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. ‘‘I would be speechless if it came to that. But if anyone deserves that, it’s Peavy. He’s the leader of the team and our pitching staff, and he has the résumé to do it. We all have our faith and trust in him, and he’s our guy.’’

While welcoming his role as the veteran leader of the staff, the 31-year-old Peavy was quick to disagree.

‘‘Chris is the best pitcher on the team,’’ said Peavy, who was 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA last season. ‘‘Your best guy goes Opening Day.’’

Manager Robin Ventura said he’ll wait to announce the choice, but most indications point to the left-handed Sale. With the potential of three lefties in the rotation, lining Sale up first would allow Ventura to stagger them better.

Sale, 23, was 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in his first season as a starter. He finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting after pitching 192 innings and making 29 starts. He wants to make 30 starts or more and pitch 200 innings or more this season.

‘‘That’s kind of the benchmark for everybody,’’ Sale said.

Sale shrugged off suggestions — including the non-scientific ‘‘Verducci effect’’ from Sports Illustrated, which looks at the risk for pitchers after a big jump in innings — that he’s due to take a step back this season.

Last season, SI writer Tom Verducci identified 14 young pitchers coming off workload increases of 30 innings or more. Nine either were
injured or took a step back performance-wise: Derek Holland, Dylan Axelrod, Jaime García, Liam Hendricks, Eric Surkamp, Chris Schwinden, Daniel Hudson, Zach Stewart and Michael Piñeda.

Sale, who had a temporary setback with a tender left elbow last season, tops that list this season. He added about 15 pounds to his string-bean frame and continued to emphasize flexibility over strength in his offseason
conditioning routine.

‘‘I don’t think about going
out there and blowing my arm up or anything like that,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Obviously, it’s a long season and you’re throwing a lot. You have to make sure everything is
intact and moving right. Pay attention to your body and know what’s going on and how it feels on a given day and know when enough is enough and when you can throw some more.’’

Sale’s first bullpen session was Tuesday. The Sox plan to ease him through spring training, which is longer than usual because of the World Baseball Classic. He will get an occasional extra day off, but so will the other pitchers because of the extra time. Cactus League games begin Feb. 23, but no projected starter will pitch until
March 1, beginning with Sale.

‘‘I felt like I learned a lot last year, not just about myself but about baseball and the game in general,’’ Sale said. ‘‘I know how my body feels, and I have a better feel for situations and different things that come up during ballgames. It’s a learning experience. You’re always adjusting, so keep your mind open and see what works.’’

Sale’s ERA last season was 2.19 in the first half and 4.03 in the second half, including 4.11 in September.

‘‘I felt strong at the beginning of last year and through the season, and I kind of fell off at the end,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s mainly my focus —
toward the back end of the season. . . . That’s the most impor-
tant part of this game, finishing strong. And that’s what I plan to do.’’

NOTE: Catcher Hector
Gimenez
(visa problems) is expected to arrive at camp Friday, general manager Rick Hahn said.



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