The White Sox finally give Chris Sale a definite role Thursday.
That’s right, the young left-hander, who has been waiting all offseason to find out if he is going to start or come out of the bullpen during the upcoming season finally got some direction.
He was plopped down in a cubicle at U.S. Cellular Field, handed a phone and a list of phone numbers and asked to recruit former season ticket holders to renew their seats for the 2011 season.
As for whether or not he will be a starter or reliever (or both) when the season opens April 1 remains to be seen, but the team’s first-round draft pick from a year ago is taking it all in stride.
“To be totally honest, to me it doesnt really matter,” Sale said about his undefined role. “I just want to pitch. I’ve played baseball entire life so it doesn’t matter whether it's starting, middle, long or closing.
“When I left Chicago, [pitching coach Don Cooper] said come back ready to go as a starter. If they need me as a starter I am ready to go, and if they need me in the ’pen I am a little ahead of schedule.”
The decision seems to hinge on whether or not Jake Peavy will be ready to return to action by Opening Day after undergoing surgery over the summer for a detached muscle under his right shoulder.
If the decision belonged to Cooper though, the pitching coach would make Sale a reliever and not waiver from that all season. Cooper said a dual role would be too much for the 21-year-old Sale to handle at this point of his young career.
“Last year was unbelievable for me because I got experience pitching in big leagues against these guys,” Sale said. “That will be a help if I go back to bullpen because with [Matt] Thornton and Sergio [Santos] there, they can help me out. I did it last year so I kind of know the basics. It's just doing it a whole year. Instead of 23 appearances [starting] it will be 60 appearances.”
He might not have been around very long, but Sale knows the routine already. So even if he has been a starting pitcher all of his life, he isn’t about to make any requests now.
“It's up to them,” Sale said. “Coop said, ‘You are eventually going to be a starter whether it's this year or next or whenever. Long term we want you to be a starter.’ I'm trying not to make too much of it. Whatever they want me to do, I will give it 100 percent and give everything I have.”
Manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if thinks that Sale could be his closer for the upcoming season.
“The funny thing, you look around and Matt Thornton is the guy with experience,” Guillen said. “You look around and the guy was there before. You look at Sale and we don’t know, we got to wait to see if Peavy is ready and see if we use Sale or somebody else. I got to wait for that.
“But pitching, Cooper knows about that and [GM] Kenny [Williams] has an idea and I feel comfortable either way. But I think having Sale in the bullpen is a plus, but that depends on Peavy and who’s going to cover [in the rotation] early in the season.”