The Chicago White Sox have cried uncle in their attempt to use Chris Sale in the starting rotation. Forget Sale's goal of a 200-inning season. The White Sox are ending the ruse after just 32.
Am I suggesting that Chicago was never serious about the notion of Sale returning to the role of a starting pitcher? I'm not sitting in the White Sox clubhouse, but I'm sifting through the early details of this move and something doesn't add up.
Scott Merkin of mlb.com reported Friday evening what was hinted at earlier in the day. Due to soreness and tightness in his pitching elbow, Chicago is scratching Sale from his scheduled start Sunday. He will be available to start closing duties on...Monday?
Wait a minute.
If Sale is experiencing soreness, why the quick turnaround? Why not simply skip the start and rest what appears to be a flareup? After spending the offseason preparing to pitch every fifth day, why throw in the towel so quickly?
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper spells it out pretty clearly:
It's not disappointing to us. It's disappointing to him because this was something that he's always wanted to do.
That doesn't sound like a guy who was behind Sale's bid to start.
According to Cooper, the team is making this move strictly for Sale's long-term benefit. Again, why have him throwing heat so soon if there's a question of arm health here?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that Hector Santiago has been moved out of the closer's spot? Cooper goes on:
We're doing it because we feel it's best for him, his career and his health. It's the best way to keep him healthy and strong. It gives us the best opportunity to do that. It's easier to maintain that and keep tabs on this in the bullpen than it is as a starter. We already know he's a good left-handed reliever. That's been proven over the past 1 1/2 years.
Now we'll be trying to make him one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, not just in the American League. That's all we're at with it. Chris is going to be fine. He was upset. He wanted to continue to do this. But sometimes we have to make decisions based upon what we feel is best for that individual, and that's what we did.
So...Sale is still healthy enough to pitch in three days but not healthy enough to start? Sale has been one of the rotation's most effective starters (3-1, 2.81 ERA) but Chicago is giving up on him starting after just one month?
Addison Reed has yet to give up an earned run this season. If the team was really behind Sale starting, why not give Reed a shot to close before making the move?
The bullpen situation improves with Sale's move to the pen with Jesse Crain still a ways from making a return. It gives Robin Ventura another left-hander to use late in games. It just sounds too convenient to fathom making the switch solely on Sale's behalf.
The White Sox are letting Sale close because that's what they've wanted to do all along. If Cooper wants to come out an say that, I wouldn't have a problem seeing the logic in such a move.
Sale has worked well out of the pen since coming up in 2010. The coaching staff is playing to win now, which you have to respect. Just come out and say it instead of making Sale's health an issue.
Otherwise, it looks suspiciously like a move made to cover for not having a closer in place this winter.