CHICAGO -- Chris Sale talked his way back into the Chicago White Sox rotation by standing up to general manger Kenny Williams much the same way Williams did 25 years ago when he was demoted by GM Larry Himes.
There is a fine line between defending your position and insubordination, as many of my superiors have reminded me through my media career. In this case Sale believed the decision to send him to the bullpen was based on overreacting to a slightly strained elbow, which an MRI revealed to be clean.
”At 4 o’clock today that was the deal (going to the bullpen),” Sale said. “I was really stuck on starting. That is my passion and something I wanted to finish out doing.”
Sale boldly told Williams that he would be letting the team down if he didn’t start. In a 45-minute meeting he was able to convince his boss and the White Sox medical staff that he was healthy enough to go back into the rotation with a couple of noted restrictions. For now Sale will be limited on how many pitches he throws and what kind of pitch selection he will feature.
“(The baseball staff ) have been doing this a very long time,” Sale said. “They are very good at what they do, so I am more than willing to buy into the program. I just need to be honest and let them know how I feel on a given day.”
Sale will start Saturday night against Kansas City, but don’t look for his signature slider to be his dominant pitch. Part of the rehab for the pitcher will focus on throwing more fastballs and changeups. Those two pitches do not put any added strain on the elbow because they are thrown overhand with no added torque on the arm.
“I don’t think it is any different than it is for anyone else,” Sale said. “If you go out there and throw a lot of sliders it’s going to be harder on your elbow. We will have to back off that a little bit, but not for one second will I stop using it.”
The tough words Sale had for Williams was something that the Sox GM liked and at the same time balked at. In 1987, after an aborted attempt to shift Williams from the outfield to third base, the White Sox, led by Himes, wanted to send Williams back to the minor leagues. In a closed-door meeting with Himes and manager Jim Fregosi , Williams threw a chair against the wall and another 10 feet out of the manager’s office. When the meeting ended, the player didn’t win the argument in this case. Williams was demoted.
It’s pretty easy to understand Williams’ admiration for Sale when you see what makes the Sox GM tick.
One thing is clear after this recent mess revolving around Sale’s sore elbow: The team needs to have one voice when it comes to informing the public about injury updates. That voice should not be manager Robin Ventura or pitching coach Don Cooper. It should be the general manager himself.
The Sox’s mistake in this instance was not sending Sale for an MRI before making any pronouncements about the pitcher’s future role. There is no disconnect between Williams and Cooper that has been rumored. Remember this is a group of coaches and executives that believe in hearing all opinions. But the final word has to come from Williams, as it did on Friday.