By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Chris Sale, Starting Pitcher, Chicago White Sox
2011 season: 58 G, 71 IP, 8 SV, 16 HLD, 2.79 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 79 K, 27 BB
Plenty of pitchers have been converted from relievers to starters over the past few seasons, with some being successful (C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando, Phil Hughes) and some not so much (Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke…Phil Hughes). Sale will be one of several making the jump at the start of the season, as he is penciled into the back end of the White Sox’s rotation. Though the left-hander has not made a single start at any professional level, he certainly has the pedigree to succeed.
Selected 13th overall in 2010 after a brilliant career as a starter at Florida Gulf Coast University, Sale was the first player from that draft to reach the Major Leagues. He got called up to the White Sox less than two months after his selection, performing so well in a setup and closer role that season that there was no question about where he would begin the 2011 campaign. Sale picked up where he left off last year, enjoying more success in a setup role, but he did not get many chances at the end of games because of the emergence of the now-traded Sergio Santos.
Perhaps that lack of opportunity was for the best, as Sale is not entrenched in the closer role and can now make a bigger impact out of the rotation. The southpaw has been mostly a fastball/slider pitcher out of the bullpen, but he did have a changeup in college that has mostly fallen by the wayside in the pros. He will have to rediscover that pitch in order to have success as a starter, as it will prove vital when facing right-handers multiple times in a game.
Turning 23 on March 30, Sale is an important part of the White Sox’s “rebuilding” movement that does not have as much talented youth as one would want. The Sox haven’t publicly stated any innings limit for the hurler, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll have one, considering that he threw just 71 frames last year. Even without being a 200-inning starter, though, Sale has a chance to make a great impact on the team. He could very well perform as one of the team’s better pitchers this year, and with his propensity to miss bats, he has the potential to grow into a frontline starter. That’s something the White Sox will gladly take, rebuilding or not.
Next up on March 9: Detroit Tigers