GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Sale will gladly take on any role that comes his way, but really he just wants to get on the mound every fifth day and pitch.
The White Sox’s ace and one of the top American league Cy Young Award candidates has become a veteran of sorts at the tender young age of 24 (he will turn 25 the day before he takes the mound on Opening Day).
There were the typical story lines on the first day of spring training Saturday like team redemption after a 99-loss season, ways to improve, and the mix of new faces in the clubhouse.
Sale took it all into consideration, said it’s important for everybody “to keep their head up” and calls the revamped pitching staff “a good mix up.”
No longer fighting to break in to the major leagues, or to prove he is worthy of being a starter, or wondering if he will take the mound on the first day of the season, Sale can work on maintaining his level of success.
But even in that area, the lanky left-hander said it’s business as usual.
“I just try to do the same things that I have always done,” he said Saturday morning before throwing his first official bullpen session of the spring. “Try to be the same person I’ve always been and not change anything. You’re here for a reason and what got you here works so why change it until need be?”
Certainly all the adjustments he made since switching form the bullpen to the starting rotation have worked out just fine.
“I throw my changeup a whole heck of a lot more than I did in the bullpen and previous years and that’s something I’ve really needed to develop,” he said. “Having three pitches as opposed to two in the bullpen and the location is a lot more key now, too, facing guys three or four times a game instead of three or four times a month.”
Sale’s frustration showed at times last season, something understandable from a pitcher who posted a 3.07 ERA over 30 starts yet still finished with an 11-14 record. Sure a won-loss record isn’t completely indicative of how somebody is pitching, but for Sale it’s all about winning whenever he takes the mound.
With time to step away from the heat of the battle, Sale says he had no issue with the play from his teammates and knows that everybody was giving their best.
“It’s not any single person’s fault,” he said. “It’s not going to do me any good to grab someone and shake ’em, probably because they’re bigger than me, too. But you’ve got to work together and I think last year made us work together and really be closer in terms of off the field and in the clubhouse.”
As he spoke to reporters outside the White Sox’s locker room, behind him was a large photograph of executive vice president Kenny Williams holding up the 2005 World Series trophy. He was asked if something like that was attainable in 2014.
“I think anything is possible,” he said. “That’s just how sports and life is in general. The Red Sox were the worst team (in 2012) and then they win it. Like I said before, the best team on paper doesn’t always finish on top and the worst team doesn’t always finish on the bottom. That’s how sports is and that’s how we’re going to try to rewrite the ending this year.”