CHICAGO -- The All-Star Game wasn’t just a place for Chris Sale to make a statement on a national level, he was also able to get his point across locally.
While most baseball fans saw Sale’s perfect two innings in the American League’s 3-0 victory on Tuesday, the left-hander was also clearing the air with members of the division-rival Detroit Tigers.
In his July 11 start at Detroit, Sale threw up and in to Prince Fielder after Miguel Cabrera had hit a home run. An inning later Josh Phegley hit a grand slam and a pitch from Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen went behind Alexei Ramirez, who stepped toward the mound while making a gesture. Benches cleared but there was no further incident.
Sale said that during All-Star festivities he was able to spend time with both Fielder and Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was the manager of the American League All-Star team.
“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” Sale said of his lengthy chat with Leyland. “Him and my grandfather had a mutual friend in Lakeland (Fla.). Just being from Lakeland, growing up around that, seeing how he is, like I said before he’s a Hall of Fame manager and giving me the time of day means the world. Being able to get things ironed out, and not only that but building things on top of that was special to me.”
Sale said he not only talked to Fielder at the All-Star Game, but after that July 11 start as well and that the players were “on the same page.”
Monday’s series opener at U.S. Cellular Field will not only be the Tigers’ first trip to Chicago this season, it will also be Sale’s first start since his All-Star appearance.
Despite being just an exhibition Tuesday, manager Robin Ventura thinks Sale’s ability to dominate on that type of stage will benefit him moving forward.
“From last year to this year I think he’s just gotten better, more mature and understands what it takes to go through the season as a starter instead of being out in the bullpen,” Ventura said. “It was just good stuff that he was able to pitch two innings and on a stage like that it was good for him and good for us for people to see him. You hear guys on other teams who face him all the time -- their reaction to him -- it matches up pretty well with what we see and what they feel when they’re up there.”
Despite a disappointing season for the team and possible trades that could alter the roster, Sale still sees lots to play for.
“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) and I talked about it yesterday in my sideline session,” Sale said. “This year, let’s spring across the finish line instead of stumbling across or fall across. Just trying to keep building strength and keep doing my job and going out there and pitch and trying to win games.”
Sale’s “stumble” was his mediocre September while in the midst of crossing the 190-inning mark for the first time in his young career. It was more than a 120-inning increase from the previous season.
He has shown enough in a brief amount of time, though, to convince the White Sox that he is the one player the franchise wants to build around. But that also means he could be watching teammates like Jake Peavy exit via trade.
“Just having his leadership, having his voice, he’s a competitor,” Sale said about Peavy. “I think that’s the one thing we have all learned more than anything from him -- that no matter if it’s going good or bad you have to go out and compete. The prime example was (Saturday). He gives up two earned runs, four total. We were down 4-0 in the third and he kept fighting. He kept them right there and we ended up winning the game. It just shows what kind of person he is and he practices what he preaches.”
Moving forward, Sale not only can benefit from watching Peavy, he has that All-Star experience as well.
“I think it's great for him to be with that many great players, it's with your peers that are the best in the world, and you're getting to go two innings and pitch like he did, it's something that gives him confidence,” Ventura said. “It's just a great moment. I don't know if you feel like it was your son, but I was happy for him. It was special.”