General manager Rick Hahn was the first to reveal that Sale suffered an avulsion fracture of his right foot while unloading items out of his truck.
Perhaps fueling the minds of the conspiracy theorists was Sale’s tongue-in-cheek tale about how the injury happened.
“There was a guy who broke into my house and it was pretty dark,” Sale said with a straight face when asked what happened. “I grabbed my throwing star. I missed him, so I hit him with a roundhouse, tied him up, threw him by the curb. That was the end of it.”
Asked about it again, Sale had a hard time breaking character.
“Well, yeah, by looking at the other guy’s head when I kicked him, it didn’t look good,” Sale said. “Initially I was a little worried, but after the x-rays and all that stuff, it worked out.”
Sale never did confirm the true story, only saying it was something he had done “a million times.” Perhaps fueling the impromptu comedy act was that while a fracture was revealed, he was relieved to know it would only take three weeks to heal. Sale compared the injury to a sprained ankle.
The consensus among the coaching staff, the front office and Sale himself is that the left-hander should be ready to go at some point during the first week of the season. That might not necessarily mean Opening Day, but he isn’t expected to be out of action past the first week to 10 days of the season.
“It’s not the best news you get in the morning when he twists his ankle and he’s out three weeks,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It could be worse. We are just going to get him back on track and get him going. But it’s just an unfortunate mishap at home, and you just go on after that.”
The team announced Sunday that their projected Opening Day starter suffered a right foot fracture and will miss three weeks of baseball activity.
The decision suggests that the White Sox remain hopeful that Sale will return by the April 6 season opener at Kansas City.
Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Hector Noesi will remain in their regularly scheduled starting spots, and if Sale isn’t ready to go by the opener, an adjustment can be made later in the spring.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cuba could be a spring training destination once more.
Major League Baseball is considering playing future spring exhibition games on the island nation and baseball hotbed, which used to routinely host American teams in the days before Fidel Castro came to power.
Baseball players' association president Tony Clark said Saturday there have been "ongoing" discussions about playing in Cuba, which recently renewed diplomatic ties with the United States. Clark said there were conversations about Cuba hosting games this spring, but there wasn't enough time to finalize details.
"We weren't able to put those pieces in play this go-around," Clark said following his annual union meeting with the Cleveland Indians. "It is conceivable somewhere down the road that there may be a spring training game played in Cuba, but it's hard to tell when at this point in time."
The Baltimore Orioles played a spring exhibition in Havana against the Cuban national team in 1999, ending a 40-year gap since the last visit by a major league team.
Major league teams regularly held spring training camps in Cuba in the 1940s and `50s. The Cincinnati Reds had a Triple-A affiliate on the island, the Havana Sugar Kings.
Sale suffered an avulsion fracture to the lateral side of his right foot Friday at his spring training residence in Arizona, but the pitcher declined to reveal how the injury happened.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Sale landed "awkwardly when he got off the back of his truck," while unloading items.
"It was really just a freak incident," Sale said. "I've just done it a million times and this time it didn't work out so well."
The White Sox say the left-hander's status for Opening Day will be determined at a later date. Sale already was scheduled to pitch in the first game of the season, but a return on March 21 would leave him just 16 days to prepare for the season opener at Kansas City.
"We'll have to assess how much arm strength he can build up prior to the opener," Hahn said. "Due to off days early in the season, we do not need a fifth starter -- so to speak -- potentially until April 12, so that would buy you another week before going to that spot.
The White Sox announced the club has sold 50 percent more tickets than they did after the opening day of sales last season.
The most popular games were those that were expected: Opening Day, Paul Konerko's jersey retirement May 23, the World Series reunion weekend in July and the three-game White Sox-Cubs cross-town series.
White Sox home attendance has declined every year since the team drew a record 2.96 million fans in 2006, the season after they won the World Series. The White Sox drew 1.65 million fans last season, their lowest total since the 1999 season. They last drew two million fans in 2011.
The White Sox wasted little time taking advantage of the solid ticket-sales numbers, encouraging fans to purchase seven-, 14- and 81-game season ticket packages in order to secure tickets for the most popular home games.
Tickets were available Friday only over the phone or via the internet at whitesox.com. Tickets can be purchased in person starting Saturday at 10 a.m. CST at the Chicago Sports Depot, adjacent to U.S. Cellular Field, as well as the phone and internet options.
That comes as no surprise, of course, and has been widely speculated since Samardzija was acquired in a December trade with the Oakland Athletics.
It isn’t necessarily that the White Sox see Quintana as less valuable than Samardzija. By setting up their top three this way, the White Sox can face opponents with a left-hander (Sale), followed by a right-hander (Samardzija), followed by another lefty (Quintana).
John Danks and Hector Noesi close out the rotation. While Ventura has yet to confirm the back end of the starting group, Danks is expected to be the No. 4 starter.
Quintana will start the Cactus League opener Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His starter for Thursday’s game against the Dodgers would reveal his intentions at fourth starter.
“Yeah, health-wise, if everything goes to plan, I’d like it to be like that,” Ventura said of the Sale, Samardzija, Quintana order. “That’s the way they’re lined up right now. That’s why Q is going Wednesday.”
A projection of the Chicago White Sox's Opening Day roster shows little to no power potential from the bench if Ventura needs to swap out a line-drive hitter for a slugger with the game hanging in the balance in the late innings.
And if the White Sox carry eight relievers into the start of the season, like Ventura has suggested, that could leave the bench reduced to guys such as Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham and a backup catcher (Geovany Soto, perhaps).
If the White Sox go with a seven-man bullpen, that still might not solve the lack of bench power. Candidates for a bench spot with a 12-man pitching staff include J.B. Shuck, Leury Garcia or perhaps a third catcher.
If this were the National League, where pitchers are swapped out when their spot in the lineup comes up, that would be one thing.
“I would rather have the flexibility and guys who can go play multiple positions,” Ventura said. “You would like to have the guy who can do that, but in the past we’ve had a lot of those guys and not a lot of flexibility. I would rather have it the other way.”
Because of their defensive ability, both Bonifacio and Beckham could get significant use as defensive replacements in the late innings. Over the long haul, that figures to be more valuable than catching lightning in a bottle and getting a pinch-hit home run every once in a while.
“I think you cover yourself more on the versatility side,” Ventura said. “We have (power) guys in the lineup. I don’t know how many guys we are going to be pinch-hitting for. Maybe in an NL game you have that. In our games, I’m not going to be pinch-hitting for (Jose) Abreu. So let it go. I would rather have versatility.”
MIAMI -- Outfielder Juan Pierre announced his retirement Friday after a 14-year career in the majors that included a World Series championship with the 2003 Florida Marlins.
Pierre, 37, ranks 18th in career stolen bases with 614. He was a .295 hitter who finished with 2,217 hits.
Pierre broke into the majors in 2000 with the Rockies and also played for the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers and Phillies. He batted .247 in 113 games with the Marlins in his final season in 2013.
The Alabama native played in every game from 2003 to '07. He batted over .300 six times, scored at least 100 runs three times and stole over 60 bases three times.
Robertson isn’t expected to get a ton of opportunities in Cactus League games, based partially on the concept that his closer job already is secured and that after seven years in the major leagues he gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to spring training.
“Even talking to him, he doesn’t need a lot of appearances to really be ready,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think more goes on what he does right now (in workouts before games). I know he’s not going to sit there and have 20 appearances in spring training just to be ready. I would say 10, or less. Really it’s up to him. He’s been around long enough to understand what he needs to be ready.”
Don’t misunderstand. Robertson isn’t cruising into the new season. After signing a four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox, he is well aware of the expectations ahead. And after a season when he saved 39 games for the New York Yankees, Robertson admitted early in camp that the five blown saves are what stick out in his mind more often.
But that still is no reason to mess with the typical routine as spring training hits its stride. Cactus League games begin Wednesday with the White Sox facing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I really ease into spring training,” Robertson said. “We’ve got 45 days here to get ready. If I can’t be ready in 45 days, there’s something wrong. I look at it as a chance to get out here and slowly get yourself acclimated and get back to playing baseball. Obviously I’ve done things in the offseason to get my body to where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of getting back on the field and getting in tune with everything.”
For Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper, it’s a matter of getting to know their new closer. So far they like what they see.
“I think every day we get these guys, some of the guys that we have seen in our uniform, we get them out there seeing hitters and it’s fun,” Ventura said. “He looked impressive, free and easy coming out. I just think that you again see his temperament when he’s out there and it’s nice to see.”
While that may sound like the least desirable option, consider that Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Daniel Webb and Javy Guerra all showed, at times, that they have the ability to be significant contributors to a successful relief corps.
Petricka and Putnam showed the most promise. Neither had put in a full season in the major leagues and both were able to deliver in key roles late in games. During a season with no set closer, Petricka led the White Sox with 14 saves, while Putnam had six.
“It’s trying to repeat and build on that,” Putnam said. “Having David (Robertson) in the ninth (as closer) is going to be a huge confidence boost for the staff. What we’re trying to do is whenever we are called upon, just get from the starter to David.”
Petricka has admitted that wanted to come into the season battling for the closer’s job, but when Robertson was added, he knew a good signing when he saw it. As for turning his attention to the set-up role, the right-hander is trying to avoid a narrow focus.
“I treat every inning I go out there the same,” Petricka said. “I give everything I’ve got and not let the inning dictate how I’m going to pitch. It’s still the hitter trying to get a hit and me trying to get him out, it doesn’t matter what inning it is.”
Dan Jennings and Zach Duke were brought aboard to give the White Sox strength form the left side, something they had little to none of last season. Spring training will be about establishing roles, including the commitment to a guy who will handle the eighth inning in front of Robertson.
Coleman was brought aboard this winter to help the team’s base running, namely to help Adam Eaton with his base-stealing technique and to oversee a potential speed duo of Micah Johnson and Eaton at the major league level.
Coleman not only stole 100 bases in a season three times in his major league career, he is also the last one to reach the magical base-stealing plateau in 1987. It means that his advice comes from experience.
“It's a mental approach,” Coleman said. “If you want to be great, it's not a destination that can be reached, it's a process, day to day. How good you want to be is a matter of how early you come to the ballpark and put in the work, and minimize your negatives and maximize your positives.”
Coleman said he wasn’t the best hitter and wasn’t a high on-base percentage guy either, so he had to maximize his standout skill in order to have success. And key in his strategy was to believe in himself.
“I stole 752 bases throughout my career and I wasn't scared one time,” Coleman said. “That's the mentality. If they get thrown out, they get picked off, it's not for the fact of lack of confidence. It's just for the fact of understanding why that happened.
“You're going to make mistakes. That's the way you get better and that's the way you gain knowledge and experience. What they have not had was someone to come in and tell them why they got picked off. Never give the opposition credit. It's for me to go out and analyze them and critique them and make them better.”
So why did Eaton’s blazing speed net him only 15 steals last season, while getting caught nine times?
“I don’t worry about that; it doesn’t matter,” Coleman said. “What he did yesterday don’t mean anything to me. I’m coming in as though he’s a newborn baby. He’s under my tutelage now. I’ve exposed him to his weaknesses, he’s aware of that, why he got thrown out.
“So what I look at, what I’ve seen from the first couple of days, he’s excited about it because he knows what his weaknesses were. He was in fear.”
Eaton has already worked with Coleman multiple times in the young spring, including a one-on-one session early in camp.
“You know me, I’m always thrilled and ready to play tomorrow, but he really got me in the mood,” Eaton said earlier this week. “I want to steal bags. Get some pitchers out here. I want to do it now. I’m very, very, very thrilled to be able to work with him. I’m very blessed. I’m excited to pick his brain and learn everything I can from him.”
Excitement is easy to come by now. It will be interesting to see what happens if Eaton hits a base-stealing slump. That’s when Coleman’s true value might be revealed.
“If you want to be one of those great athletes you got to have a great work ethic,” Coleman said. “It depends on what that area is and I'm just so happy to be covering the base running and the outfield since I have a Ph.D. in that.
“I'm going to try to show 'em all I can. It's 90 percent mental. I was a mischievous kid coming up, so it makes it easier for me to go out and display it and then also for them to understand it and comprehend it.”
Quintana is expected to open the regular season as the No. 3 starter in the rotation.
Chris Sale is scheduled to be the White Sox’s Opening Day starter and will be followed in the rotation by Jeff Samardzija. After Quintana, John Danks is expected to be the No. 4 starter, with Hector Noesi the current favorite for the No. 5 spot.
Manager Robin Ventura also revealed Thursday the White Sox will play intrasquad games Monday and Tuesday on a back field of the club’s spring training facility.
The games, which likely will start in the mid-morning, typically are played on a field accessible to fans. There is no charge to access at least two of the five fields on the White Sox’s side of the Glendale complex.
It was also a relief to see. That’s how trying his 2014 season was.
Traded to the White Sox last winter in exchange for closer Addison Reed, Davidson was a starting third base candidate exactly one year ago. Not only did Conor Gillaspie get the job and do a solid job in the process, Davidson seemed to implode once he reached Triple-A Charlotte.
The former Triple-A home run derby champion, who hit as many as 25 long balls in a minor league season, was humbled last year to the tune of a .199 batting average, a .362 slugging percentage and just 55 RBIs.
He did hit 20 home runs, but those were over 20 percent of his entire 95-hit output for the season.
“It was very humbling,” Davidson said Thursday morning. “I’m going to come here, put my head down and enjoy myself. Last year, this jersey with the Sox logo on it and my name on the back felt non-existent, like I would never reach it. To kind of come back here with the same number and see it … it’s a really cool experience to just play this game of baseball. Last year, I felt like it was gone, which was a very scary feeling that I’ve never felt before.”
The two most intriguing dramas in White Sox camp this year are the battle for the second-base job and settling on bullpen roles outside of the closer. Only slightly less intriguing will be Davidson’s attempt to get back on track.
“I’m just taking the positives out of last year that I can,” Davidson said. “I had a really good offseason. It was a long offseason for me. It was a full offseason. I was home Sept. 1. I just re-evaluated myself. I figured out what I enjoyed about baseball. Last year, it was not fun driving to the park and struggling day in and day out when it’s something you are not used to.”
It certainly sounds as if Davidson was in a dark place mentally. But last year can’t solely be judged on how he performed on the field. There was a ton on his plate, aside from moving to a new organization.
At year ago at this time, Davidson was a newlywed, having tied the knot in January. Then came a disappointing spring training, which ended with a life-changing three-day stretch. As March was coming to a close, Davidson found out he was being sent to Triple-A one day, discovered he was going to be a father the next and then learned that his grandmother had passed away.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Davidson said. “Everybody eventually in this room is going to get married or have a kid. That’s something we all have to go through. Personally, as a person, I wasn’t mature enough to deal with all of those things, and especially all at once, so I had a lot of growing up to do.
“I always thought I was kind of mature, but not really in the parent and getting married aspect. I had to grow a lot in that, which was fun. It really grew my wife’s and my relationship a lot deeper, going through something as hard as that.”
This year is all about getting back to why he fell in love with baseball in the first place. He isn’t worried about beating out Gillaspie for the starting job as much as he is interested in getting back to becoming the player that had advanced into a highly regarded power prospect.
“We’re just going to wipe away what happened to him last year,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He tried to impress and do too much. At some point during that season you’re going to get swallowed up. I think he was messed up mechanically. Talent-wise it’s been there. You look back over his career in the minor leagues and he has good numbers to back it up. You see the way he’s moving around, physically he looks good, he looks agile.”
With a daughter who was born in November, Davidson feels more at peace now. Life isn’t coming at him now like a 102-mph fastball at dusk.
“It’s awesome coming in,” Davidson said. “They still have my jersey up and have 22 on it on the back. They still believe in me. I could be in a lot worse position than I am right now, so I understand that. I take that and all the positives I can because last year, it was negative first. Anything I thought, it was negative first.
“Even if stuff goes wrong this year, I’m going to really try to see the positives in it and go from there. I’m a good player. I put up good numbers, and I have to believe in that. And I do. I feel like I have restored things.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kansas City Royals fans were not the only ones standing up and cheering at the base-running exploits of both Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson this past postseason.
Top Chicago White Sox infield prospect Micah Johnson was loving it as well, mainly because the Royals’ speedsters were showing what an advantage it can be to have multiple guys flying around the bases.
Johnson is in a battle for the open second-base job this spring and one asset he plans on using to his advantage will be his own above-average speed that allowed him to steal as many as 87 bases over four separate minor league levels in 2012.
“That was pretty cool to see,” Johnson said of the Royals’ running game in the postseason. “It was fun for everybody to watch. I remember playing against Terrance Gore in low A-ball, and now he was up there on the biggest stage, stealing bases.
“For me, speed is my game. You can see what kind of havoc it causes when you are on the bases. Pitchers worry, the defense worries. I know on defense, when Terrance was on the bases, it’s not fun. You have to cheat a little bit at second base so you can beat him to the bag he’s so fast.”
Crain still is not expected to break camp with the team for Opening Day, but he has been ahead of schedule in his recovery process, even mixing in some sliders during a bullpen session Wednesday.
Most pitchers have advanced to live batting practice at this point, while Crain remains on a slower pace as a precaution.
“It's good news to see Jesse throw like that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He was excited, as well as (pitching coach Don Cooper). Any time you see a guy go out there, that's kind of working his way back into it, and has a session like that and feels as good as he did, you're happy for him. It's good to see.”
Crain and Nate Jones (Tommy John surgery) both could be added at some point this upcoming season to bolster the bullpen.
"We’re not going to push that, because the tendency for Jesse might be that he sees everybody going in a competitive nature and thinks, ‘I want to go too,'" Cooper said. "We have a little different plan for him. I’m not saying he can’t leave with us. It could happen, but he and Nate are the two guys that somewhere down the road, that when they are finished getting stronger, rehabbing, they will be able to help us in some way, shape or form."
After struggling with his bullpen all last season, Ventura knows he could use all the help he can get.
“You’re hoping,” Ventura said. “You get somebody like Nate back at that point and that’s like trading for somebody. You get an arm like that down there that you trust in and you know what he brings to the table, if he can do that it would be great. It would be a big shot in the arm for us.”