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Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura told Chris Sale early Saturday that he was his choice to open the season against the Kansas City Royals.
Sale then promptly went out and had his roughest outing of the spring. The 25-year-old left-hander did not have his best command, allowing five earned runs in five-plus innings on an 11-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
"Maybe he had some nerves today after I told him that," said Ventura. "We feel very confident with him going forward giving him the ball the first game."
"A lot of people might look at [Saturday] as a step back or a setback," said Sale. "I don't. It is just a part of the curve. You are not going to go out and be great every time. You are going to run into some rough outings. My main thing is to focus on what happened and take the positives from it and learn from this."
With two weeks left before the season opener, Sale's schedule has him on pace to pitch the first game of the season on five days of rest.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has been working with Sale on a new pitch that he won't divulge at the present time.
"He wants to be good, he wants to be one of the top flight guys," Cooper said. "We like to think he is on his way to achieving that."
Sale was 17-8 with a 3.08 ERA last season.
Sale was non-committal after the game, preferring his manager break the news about his opening day status.
"That is not a concern for me," he said after his outing. "That is probably the furthest thing from my mind. I have one thing on my mind and that is to prepare for Opening Day, the next day or three or four days after that."
Sale last week signed a five year $32.5 million contract with two club option years.
"I feel like I am free," Sale said when asked about his mindset after signing the deal. "I don't have to worry about this and that or what is on the agenda for next year. I feel comfortable now. All I have to do is prepare for baseball and work hard, leave it all out on the field. I don't have to worry about all that business stuff."