Sale keeping hitters off-balance

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
4:18
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Chris SaleVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesChris Sale's ability to change speeds on his fastball has kept hitters off-balance.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- American League All-Stars tipped their hats in the direction of Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale and his impressive mix of fastballs.

The 23-year-old first time All-Star will pitch one inning in Tuesdays All-Star Game, and some of his teammates are looking forward to playing behind him rather than trying to hit his variety of fastballs.

"First of all Sale is all arms and legs coming at you," said Home Run Derby winner Prince Fielder. "You add in the fact he throws 97 miles per hour and he can change speeds on that. Then he has three great pitches. All that makes him great."


Trying to adjust to Sales' different fastballs has been tough for even the most accomplished hitters.

"He throws hard and is very difficult to pick up," AL home run leader Jose Bautista said. "Their whole staff is tough."

Sale has been working on different grips with the fastball which has confused hitters who believe they are seeing some variation of a slider or cut fastball.

"He is all elbows and knees, he is tall and lanky (6-6, 180) and he really commands his pitches," Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He reminds me of (Jared) Weaver, because when Weaver first started he threw harder all the time then began to change speeds.

"Chris is already doing that. If Chris continues to develop the sky's the limit for him. He is not as big and doesn’t have the hair that Randy Johnson had, but he kind of has the same thing going on."

Changing speeds on his fastball is something Sale has worked hard to develop.

"That is something I have been working on, throwing more strikes and changing speeds on the fastball," Sale said. "Doing that helps me pace myself so I have a little extra on my hardest fastball if I need it late in the game.

"The change off the fastball is something I just came up with so it is not a true changeup, but it freezes some hitters who are looking for 98 and get 93 miles per hour instead."

The game's top pitcher Justin Verlander, who will start ahead of Sale in the All-Star Game, is known for changing speeds on all of his pitches. It's something Sale has tried to copy.

"You watch a guy like Verlander throw 103, but early in the game he takes something off of the fastball and tries to hit spots and move the hitters' eyes and then when he needs it late in the game he rears back and gets to it (best fastball ) that is what I am trying to learn to do," Sale said.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.320 33 99 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 33
RBIJ. Abreu 99
RJ. Abreu 71
OPSJ. Abreu .983
WC. Sale 11
ERAC. Sale 2.11
SOC. Sale 178