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Chris Sale will return Thursday vs. Yankees

Updated: June 24, 2014 7:49AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Enough of this cheerleading nonsense. Chris Sale is ready to be a baseball player again.

After a five-week layoff because of a flexor muscle strain, the two-time All-Star lefty will start against the Yankees on Thursday night when the White Sox open a 10-game homestand with the first of four games against the Bronx Bombers.

To make room for Sale, righty Frank Francisco was designated for assignment. Hector Noesi will stay in the rotation, and Scott Carroll will head to the bullpen.

“It’s like, ‘Hey, you haven’t pitched in over a month,’ and ‘Hey, go get the Yankees,’ ’’ Sale joked Wednesday. “But that’s what I look forward to. These are the games I love to pitch in.’’

Sale (3-0, 2.30 ERA) has been eager and probably able to pitch for at least a week. The elbow has felt well enough, but caution has been the word of the day for 35 days since he threw 127 pitches against the Red Sox on April 17. Since then, Sale has been around the team but has felt like an outsider, which for an athlete rivals the pain of any injury.

“He enjoys being in here and being around as much as he misses pitching,’’ said Adam Dunn, one of Sale’s closest friends on the Sox. “I’ve never been on the DL, but I can imagine if you’re not playing, you don’t feel like you’re part of the team.’’

That’s about right.

“Everyone’s doing their part, chipping in and helping win ballgames, and I’m just sitting on the sidelines with pompons in my hands, really,’’ Sale said. “Actually, not even that, sitting in the training room with my elbow in the bucket. You start feeling a little lonely. I kind of felt lost.’’

The Sox, who lost to the Royals 3-1 on Wednesday, have managed to stay afloat with a 23-25 record despite the loss of their ace and — for various lengths of time — Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Gordon Beckham and Adam Eaton, to name only a few.

Getting Sale back is big, manager Robin Ventura said.

“You’re getting a guy back that every time he goes out there, you’ve got a pretty dang good shot to win,’’ Ventura said.

Ventura said it was doubtful that Sale, who threw 68 pitches in his 11-strikeout, four-inning rehab start for Class AAA Charlotte on Friday, would throw more than 100 Thursday. Sale said pitch counts will not be a concern for him.

“No, like I said before, it’s what you signed up for,’’ he said. “That’s just sports. Nothing matters except for wins, and if it comes to that again and I have to do it, I will. There’s not going to even be a question about it.’’

Dunn knows Sale will be amped up. “It will be like Opening Day for him,’’ Dunn said.

As difficult and lonely as being out was, Sale handled it well. At 25, he should have a long career ahead of him. Dealing with arm issues will be part of it.

“He’s got to be smart,’’ Dunn said. “I told him, ‘Be smart. When you think you’re ready, wait a week or two.’ He’s been good for about two weeks, which is good. We need him.’’

Jeremy Guthrie was good for the Royals, allowing three hits over seven innings.

Jose Quintana received one run or fewer of support for the 25th time in 64 career starts. The Royals went ahead on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly off Jake Petricka, who then walked consecutive batters to force in the Royals’ third run.

Paul Konerko had an RBI single in the second.


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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