CHICAGO -- Chris Sale paused for a few seconds before settling on the word “terrible” to describe the first inning of his first start since an MRI revealed no structural damage to his left elbow.
Atrocious, forgettable and doomed would also suffice when talking about Sale’s four-hit, two-walk, three-run, 42-pitch first inning that put the White Sox in a hole for good.
If the last two weeks weren’t helter-skelter enough for the 23-year-old Sale, who went from starter to closer then back to the rotation, the lefty redeemed himself in the final four innings of Saturday’s outing, allowing just three more hits while striking out two in the White Sox’s 5-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
“Bouncing back from that was big,” Sale said. “I kind of turned the momentum. But my mindset is different. That’s what they needed me for the first inning, too. Three out of the gate is hard for anybody. The way they were throwing the ball over, they just did a great job and I got out-pitched.”
Sale threw 66 of his 103 pitches for strikes. After the rough first inning, he was able to string together consecutive 1-2-3 innings. Sale said he was mentally and physically prepared for Saturday’s start, but ultimately it was his lack of control over his off-speed pitches that burned him. According to MLB.com, Sale began the game with nine straight fast balls before he threw his first off-speed pitch. Sale threw 19 sliders and 10 changeups on the night, a day after saying he’ll need to back off relying too heavily on his slider.
He said command of his off-speed pitches was something to work on during his side session this week.
Manager Robin Ventura said he wasn’t concerned about Sale’s high pitch count in the first inning.
“I mean you are going to let him go until he found it,” Ventura said. “It wasn’t an issue. I think for one inning, getting out there at 40 pitches is a lot for a pitcher. He would learn something out of that, being able to control it and get it back and still finish up five innings. It’s still a good effort.”
Still, Sale isn’t one to make excuses and seemed in no mood to look for a silver lining to his outing. He admitted he’s glad to be back in the rotation and put the last few weeks’ turn of events behind him but added that, “at the same time, this is a job just like it’s a business and I like to think I’m a big boy and can handle all of that and leave that stuff in here, and when I’m out there go about my business. I did that to an extent but I didn’t produce what this team needed.”