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Chris Sale flips back into White Sox’ rotation

White Sox general manager Ken Williams says he is “really proud” left-hander Chris Sale “because he stood up for himself.”

White Sox general manager Ken Williams says he is “really proud” of left-hander Chris Sale “because he stood up for himself.” | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 13, 2012 8:12AM

Chris Sale is back in the White Sox’ rotation, thanks to a clean MRI exam of his elbow and apparently his powers of persuasion.

If it takes some extra precautions to ensure the left-hander’s health — even skipping starts — so be it.

“Going into the season, we knew we were going to have to monitor this to a greater degree than we usually do,” general manager Ken Williams said Friday of the decision to switch Sale from reliever to starter. “We know there’s going to be an adjustment period.”

That period usually comes in the minors, Williams said, but Sale, the top draft choice in 2010, essentially had no minor-league career.

“What complicated things with Chris is we put him in the bullpen for two years,” Williams said.

The real complication in the last week seems to have been the team’s initial reaction to Sale’s complaints about discomfort in his elbow.

Within days of his start on May 1 in Chicago, a 7-2 victory, manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper announced Sale was being moved to the closer’s role because a starting job might be too taxing for his arm considering his delivery style.

Sale blew a save in his first opportunity May 8 in Cleveland, but his psyche might have been the greater casualty.

“I truly felt this was something I could do,” Sale said of starting, and he made that clear to Williams in a phone call the day he worked out of the bullpen.

“He wants it badly, and I love that about him,” said Williams, whose conversation with Sale brought about the latest change. “I’m really proud because he stood up for himself. When Robin Ventura said he was going to the bullpen, what changed was a Chris Sale phone call to me.”

Sale insisted that what initially was thought to be “pain” in his elbow — Williams called it “a red flag” to the team — was more “general soreness.” Sale told Williams, “I can get through this.”

“He was adamant. He almost crossed the line,” Williams said. “But the forcefulness he had told us something. It told us he has something extra mentally.”

Just as important was the medical exam, which Williams described as “clean.” Sale will start Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.

“Everything will be monitored,” Williams said, admitting that Sale might have to be skipped at times, or even put in the bullpen again for brief stays. “We take care of our pitchers, and we’re going to shut you down if there is something that indicates you’re not healthy. We have to do what we have to do to manage him through the season. We may have to do it again [put him in the bullpen], though I hope not.

“I don’t care if it causes questions in the rotation. If we have to take him out that day [he is scheduled], we will. He’s more important than that day’s game.”

Ventura said he doesn’t envision a problem managing his rotation while managing Sale (3-1, 2.73 ERA).

“It’s a unique situation. It’s the same kind of monitoring that was going on before,” Ventura said. “You probably look at it and keep tabs on it a little more.”

Ventura and Williams insisted that what seemed ambiguous surrounding Sale’s situation on the outside was never that way internally.

Ventura suggested any confusion was because the team was on the road and “people weren’t able to sit down face-to-face. And now we’re [home] and everybody can sit down, get tests done. You see things and talk about it face-to-face.”

A defensive Williams said the Sox were only being cautious, as they have been with countless players through the years.

“If anyone wants to come after me for being overly cautious, fire away,” he said. “We’re going to take care of this guy. We drafted him [to be] a starter. You don’t want to do anything to compromise his long-term future.”

As for Sale, his thoughts for now are about starting Saturday.

“I felt poorly that I set a goal to do this and fell drastically short,” he said. “I felt like I was letting my teammates down and felt like I was depending on other people to pick up my slack. It was disappointing to me not being able to fulfill something I was supposed to do.

“They’ve had my best interests in mind since the day I got here. They would rather be too cautious than not cautious enough. They’ve been doing this a really long time, and they’re really good at what they do. I’m more than willing to buy into the program.”

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