CHICAGO -- Dylan Axelrod could have been matched up against Cy Young in his first start of the season and he wouldn’t have complained.
As it is, the Chicago White Sox's No. 5 starter will have to face a Cy Young Award winner when he goes toe-to-toe with the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez in Saturday afternoon’s game at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Yeah, I know who is (out) there,” said Axelrod, who has a record of 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in parts of the last two seasons with the White Sox. “I’m just pitching against the lineup so I feel like if I go out and put up a good effort, we are going to have a chance to win.”
Axelrod won the starting spot out of spring training, but only because John Danks wasn’t ready to start the season on time. Danks is rehabbing from surgery on his left shoulder with no expectation on when he might return, although he could be back within the next month.
Saturday’s pitching matchup will be a battle of opposites. While Hernandez, known as "King Felix," can be overpowering with a nasty curveball that has late break, Axelrod has what can be considered an average fastball. The White Sox’s 27-year-old right-hander is helped, though, by pinpoint accuracy and an ability to throw four pitches for strikes.
“Don’t walk anybody, get ahead, that’s what I do,” Axelrod said, simplifying his strategy. “I’m probably not going to strike out a ton of guys. Just make them put it in play and let the defense work, pound the zone. I feel confident that if I do that, I’ll have a strong outing.”
The White Sox have known for some time that Hernandez was lined up to face them Saturday and they could have used Tuesday’s off day to get Chris Sale into the game on regular rest, making it a battle of pitching titans. But the White Sox went against that idea.
“You’re going to throw your five guys out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It was thought about, but it wasn’t seriously thought about. Let everybody have their rest and go from there. We want to make sure we have (Sale) for a long time.”