Sox's Sale rounding into starter shape

MESA, Ariz. -- The White Sox’s rotation is set for the start of the season, and left-hander Chris Sale will make his first professional start from the No. 4 slot in Chicago’s rotation in Cleveland on April 9.

The 23-year-old made his fourth start of the spring on Saturday against the Brewers, pitching 4 2/3s innings and giving up three earned runs (four total). Sale pushed his pitch count to 97 in an effort to ready himself for a season in the rotation.

“It was not as bad as it might have looked from the outside,” Sale said. “I felt strong throughout the entire outing and I threw a lot of pitches.

Sale gave up solo home runs to Alex Gonzalez in the second inning and former Cub third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the fourth.

“The one to Ramierz, I’d throw that pitch again,” Sale said. “I felt like he did a real good job of going down and getting it.”

The plan is for Sale to throw in one more Cactus League game on March 29 then a warm-up in Houston on April 3.

Although the White Sox have not made it public, the club will watch the innings pitched by the young Florida native in his first season as a starting pitcher.

”That’s on the coaching staff (to track innings) and the guys who are higher up,” Sale said.

The trend in baseball is to protect the arms of top draft picks. The White Sox have made a significant investment in Sale, selecting him with the 13th pick in the 2010 armature draft, and are banking on him to produce well beyond this season.

”The competitive part of him will come out wanting to throw more,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I want to take care of him (so) he has a career and everything else. Sometimes you have to protect them from themselves. I don’t know if that is (the case with) him, but we want him to be around a long time and be healthy.