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With contract in hand, Chris Sale set for another big year

MONDAY

SOX OPENER

Royals at Sox

The facts: 3:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM.

The pitchers: James Shields (15-10, 3.52 ERA in 2012) vs. Chris Sale (17-8, 3.05).

SOX LINEUP

CF Alejandro De Aza

3B Jeff Keppinger

RF Alex Rios

DH Adam Dunn

1B Paul Konerko

LF Dayan Viciedo

SS Alexei Ramirez

C Tyler Flowers

2B Gordon Beckham

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Wednesday: 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM. Ervin Santana (9-13, 5.16) vs. Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.37).

Thursday: 1:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM. Jeremy Guthrie (8-12, 4.76) vs. Gavin Floyd (12-11, 4.29).

Updated: May 2, 2013 6:32AM



The Chris Sale who makes his first Opening Day start Monday at U.S. Cellular Field against the Kansas City Royals isn’t the same Chris Sale last seen by the home fans when he lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 29.

This one will be rich.

Sale signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension March 7. It’s a deal that looks good for the Sox, who might have had to pay more to keep him had they waited longer to work out a long-term contract, and it’s a deal that looks good for Sale, who has financial security at 24 with a chance to make many more millions later in his career if he stays healthy.

“There’s two positives for me,’’ Sale said of the contract that also includes club options for sixth and seventh years that could raise it to $60 million. “Now I can just play baseball — I don’t have to worry about it anymore. The other side is, my family is taken care of. My son is going to have every opportunity to be what he wants to be and do what he wants to do and be successful in life.’’

The flip side of a big contract is the expectations that come with it from management and fans, and self-made pressure as a result.

Sale won’t be affected by it, he said.

“It’s something that’s over and done with and is in the past,’’ he said. “My mind is completely gone from that now. It’s something you don’t play for — it kind of happens. I am appreciative of it, but I know I have something more important to worry about than counting it up. I still have to go out and win games.

‘‘This isn’t the end of the road: Get a contract, and it’s over. I feel more inclined to go out there and push even harder.’’

The pushing begins Monday. Sale earned this moment with a 17-8 record and 3.05 ERA in his first season as a starter. His opponent, the Royals’ James Shields, is making his fifth Opening Day start but first with the Royals.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking with everything going on, all this excitement and hoopla,’’ Sale said. “But I’m very proud and very honored to be the guy to start Opening Day, to get the first one out there and bring it back as a win.’’

Sale is young but mature. He and wife Brianne were married in college, and he became a father sooner than most. He hadn’t planned on being a family man so soon, but rather than resist the responsibilities that came with it, he embraced them. And he was far from financially secure back then.

“If you have a bad attitude or outlook with any of that, it’s going to be a rough road,’’ he said. “Whether at the time it was good or bad, you look back at it now, and you have to take the positives from everything. Ask people who go through hard times how they got through that, and they’ll talk about the positive things that helped them fight through that. You have to have a positive outlook on life because so many negative things can happen.’’

Having had what he calls a “loving family and great upbringing from parents who have been there every step of the way’’ gave Sale a solid foundation. He’s all grown up now, yet he’s still a kid at heart who said his “knees were knocking just thinking about” Opening Day when he got the assignment from manager Robin Ventura.

“He’s very excited about [Opening Day],’’ Ventura said Sunday. “He should be. He’s earned it. His kind of excitement is contagious for guys who have been around the game a long time, his kind of boyish enthusiasm for an Opening Day start.’’



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