There must be something in the air that is getting to ace left-handers who train at Camelback Ranch.
First the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was struggling at the Glendale, Ariz., facility, and now the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale has stumbled in his second start Wednesday against the San Diego Padres.
The White Sox's expected Opening Day starter lasted just 2 2/3 innings, the same as his spring debut last week. But while he delivered a scoreless outing in his Cactus League debut, he gave up six runs on six hits against the Padres, including a home run by Nick Hundley.
Nobody seems too worried that Kershaw won't come around, and the same could be said for Sale, who was mixing in sliders for the first time. He threw just one in his first start, relying on fastballs and changeups in that outing.
The White Sox are no doubt chalking up this one to the rigors of spring training where preparing for the season sometimes means that a pitcher takes his lumps, even one as good as Sale.
"I threw more hanging breaking balls today than I threw all year," Sale told reporters in Arizona.
And don't forget, breaking balls aren't exactly sharp in the dry Arizona air. Curveballs are the worst, but sliders can be affected too.
"Curveballs down here aren't quite as effective, but I said to a couple of guys, 'Whenever we land (for the regular season) your curveball is going to be better,' " pitching coach Don Cooper said. "What we have to do is get the shape of it right because the air down here, curveballs don't really respond as well. The only curveball guy I can think of, (Tom) Flash Gordon, he threw a good curveball in Arizona. But this is a guy that had the Mercedes Benz of curveballs."
Sale, who possesses the Mercedes Benz of sliders, still has four more scheduled outings to get his pitches where he needs them. One of those outings is expected to be in a B game on March 20, since the White Sox don't have a Cactus League game scheduled for that day.
After that, though, it all starts for real as Sale figures to be on the mound for the March 31 season opener at U.S. Cellular Field against the Minnesota Twins. Expect the heavier Midwest air to be just what his breaking ball needs.