White Sox, left-hander Chris Sale talking about long-term deal
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 6, 2013 11:06PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:47AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox don’t have to give 23-year-old left-hander Chris Sale a contract extension — he’s not even eligible for arbitration until after the season — so they are sticking their necks out by negotiating with him.
There is no fretting about Sale’s mechanics and skinny frame that some say make signing him to a long-term contract risky business. All pitchers are one slider away from an injury.
Sale, who was an All-Star last season, is poised to be the Sox’ Opening Day starter April 1. Despite being conspicuously absent from the cover of the Sox’ 2013 media guide, he is growing into the young face of the franchise. And coming off a 17-8 season with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings, Sale is a bargain at the $600,000 he signed for last week.
The Sox want to do right by him and give Sale a paycheck that’s more in line with what he’s worth, lock him up to a long-term deal and delay his hitting the open market for a couple of years. They’ve done that with starting pitchers Gavin Floyd and John Danks and shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
In Sale’s case, the extension talks he acknowledged are happening Tuesday confirms the Sox’ belief in his durability and toughness, his effectiveness tapering off in the second half of last season notwithstanding. A drop was not surprising, considering the uncharted levels of stress and work on his arm during his first season as a starter.
‘‘As he got above 180 innings last year, we started to see a little bit of a decline toward the end, which wasn’t a shock given his previous highs,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. ‘‘So you’re cognizant of the innings jump, but we don’t take just the objective increase in innings to mean that he’s doomed to fail. Mechanics, self-reporting and what our scouts are reporting are going to carry more weight than just a number year to year.
‘‘In fact, a lot of the year-to-year innings jumps that you see with guys at risk has been pretty well disproven over recent years as a warning sign. And, look,
every pitcher is at risk. Whether he’s at a zero-inning jump or a 30-plus-inning jump, there’s risk involved.’’
At 6-6 and about 185 pounds, there’s not much meat on Sale’s bones. But his delivery is loose, and his demeanor is ‘‘dirty.’’
‘‘Jack McDowell was pretty skinny, and he had a good career,’’ strength and conditioning coordinator Allen Thomas said of the former Sox ace. ‘‘Skinny and strength don’t equate.
‘‘Sale is getting stronger and stronger every year. You have to understand where he’s at and his age also. There’s still a lot of growth to go on. He could grow all the way up to [age] 32, 33 with his last growth spurt.’’
Sale’s three-quarter sidearm delivery across his body isn’t the best for avoiding injury. He’s aware of that and has adjusted the landing spot of his front foot by a few inches to alleviate some of the stress on his arm.
The Sox have studied video, analyzed his mechanics and the pressure points on his body and concluded there isn’t an inordinate amount of risk.
Sale, who threw 65 pitches in a four-inning simulated game against minor-leaguers Wednesday, had ‘‘a great day of work,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said. Sale knows his delivery isn’t textbook, but Cooper said it’s a good one because ‘‘he’s a strike-throwing machine.’’
Sale also knows it works for him, and the angle he comes from is part of the package that makes him tough to hit.
‘‘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.’’