Chris Sale eyeing rehabilitation start date

CHICAGO -- Sounding as chipper as he has been since going on the disabled list in April, Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale said he is ready for the next step of his rehab process, which is expected to be a minor league rehabilitation start.

The left-hander threw a four-inning simulated game at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday, closing the session at full speed. There were no issues with the strained flexor muscle in his pitching arm.

"I threw everything," Sale said. "The first inning was all fastballs, changeups; the next two were everything in all locations; and the last one was all fastballs, but as hard as I could go. [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] said, 'I don’t want you throwing anything other than fastballs, but I want you at max effort.'"

The Cy Young Award candidate hasn’t pitched since throwing 127 pitches on April 17 in the White Sox’s hard-luck loss to the Boston Red Sox. The team said soon after the outing that his next start would be skipped, and shortly after, they announced the DL stint.

Unable to recover in a timely fashion after working overtime against the Red Sox, Sale feared the worst.

"I was very concerned up until I got an MRI done," the wiry power pitcher said. "Since the MRI, there’s really been zero concern on my end just because I know that it’s all muscular.

"I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my life, but there is nothing wrong with ligaments, tendons, nothing like that, so there was never a doubt in my mind. But it was a little slower [recovery] process than I anticipated."

Sale has been eligible to come off the disabled list since May 3, and the White Sox have not hidden the fact they are being extremely cautious with his recovery. Sale would gladly pitch tomorrow if the White Sox would let him, but he understands the need to be careful.

"You’d rather take the time now and be able to get it over with and done with than have it linger," he said. "It’s almost like getting your car fixed. Do you want to leave it in the shop for a few more days and have it done and ready to go, or do you want to have to take it back once a month or every couple of weeks and have that linger around? So I think when we’re done with this we’ll be ready to go."

While the White Sox have not set a target date for his return to a major league mound, the speculation has already started. Sale could have a rehab start Thursday and be back for the May 19-21 series at the Kansas City Royals. If he needs two rehab starts, it’s possible he could return for the May 25 home game against the New York Yankees.

White Sox bench coach Mark Parent, who took over the managing duties Saturday while Robin Ventura attended his daughter’s college graduation, was asked if the Yankees series was a target.

"Yeah, that’s the one he’s looking at right now," Parent said.