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Chris Sale emulates mentor Mark Buehrle

Updated: April 12, 2014 6:26AM



PHOENIX — With his second consecutive Opening Day start on March 31 against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale still has seven to go to catch Mark Buehrle and his franchise-record nine Opening Day starts.

And regardless of how many more Opening Day starts Sale gets, he’s a long way from entering Buehrle’s realm as a Sox starter, he said.

‘‘Him and Paul [Konerko] are two guys that I don’t think there’s ever going to be anything like them again — especially in this organization,’’ Sale said after pitching 41/3 scoreless innings Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

‘‘You could rattle off 15 Opening Day starts in a row, and he’s still going to be in the books. He’s one of the best. Unless you bring multiple [World Series] championships back, I don’t think anyone’s going to take the reins from [Buehrle]. He’s the man.’’

Sale was in that Buehrle mode as he recovered from a poor outing against the Padres last Wednesday. He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced, allowed two hits, four sharply hit balls and no walks and struck out three. He threw 62 pitches, 42 for strikes.

‘‘I definitely wanted to work on location, command,’’ Sale said. ‘‘My slider was a lot better than it was last time out. That’s a key pitch for me and something I really need to help me out.’’

Sale said Buehrle was a good mentor when they pitched on the same Sox staff in 2010 and 2011.

‘‘Just going about his business,’’ said Sale, who was 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA last season. ‘‘Pace of game, being efficient. Throwing strikes. Watching how he went out there and worked his craft — that’s kind of what I like to do is throw strikes. If they’re going to get on, make them hit it. And work quickly. Your defense is a lot better behind you when you’re moving quick and they’re in and out.’’

There was never any doubt that Sale would be the Opening Day starter. But manager Robin Ventura made it official.

‘‘He’s our best pitcher,’’ Ventura said.

‘‘He’s the logical choice. He deserves it.’’

Sale beat the Royals 1-0 in last year’s opener. He pitched 72/3 innings, allowing no runs and seven hits.

‘‘It’s cool; it’s exciting,’’ Sale said.

‘‘As much as you say, ‘Treat it like another start,’ it’s the first one of the year — you’re obviously going to be amped up for it.’’

Sale, who will turn 25 on March 30, said he still doesn’t feel like a veteran or a leader.

‘‘I’m still carrying the Xbox on the plane,’’ he said.

But he’ll likely be the leader of any Sox championship hopes.

‘‘I’d love to do that,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Chicago’s a sports city with all the history with the Bulls and the Bears and the White Sox — especially with the Blackhawks now, it would be fitting for us to bring one of those home for our fans.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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