Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chris Sale strikes out 12 Houston hitters, quiet concerns -- for now

White Sox ace Chris Sale had his worst outing of the season -- and perhaps the worst performance of his career -- last Friday against the Texas Rangers.

He gave up eight runs over seven innings. Four different Texas batters hit home runs. Naturally, that caused a great deal of alarm among the meathead division of the Sox fan base. "Shut down Sale! He's tired!" they cried. It seems like every time Sale has a bad outing, it's a sign of impending doom. Some people are just paranoid that Sale is an injury waiting to happen.

My thoughts on this matter are simple: You can't predict the future. You never know when a pitcher might get hurt. Every pitcher in baseball at times takes the ball while feeling less than 100 percent physically. That's the nature of the game. I would take a guess that most guys around baseball are feeling a little tired these days. It's late August. It's hot outside. These are the dog days. But so what? If a guy is healthy, he should pitch. If he's not healthy, he should take a seat. It's really no more complicated than that.

And right now, there's no sign that Sale is laboring physically. His stuff looks sharp. He was dominant Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He struck out seven of the first 10 Houston Astros he faced and finished with 12 Ks over eight innings in a 6-1 White Sox winner. I know it's just the Astros, but anyone who watched this game saw Sale at his very best. The fastball was in the mid- to high-90s. The breaking ball was biting. The changeup was well-located, except for one mistake to Chris Carter in the seventh inning. It was just the kind of bounce-back outing you would expect from an ace pitcher.

Sale does not look tired to me. Sure, he could get injured his next start for all I know. There's a risk of injury every single time a player takes the field. You accept that as part of the sport. What is the point in coddling guys? That said, you have to be smart and reasonable. The Sox are out of the race and have been for two months. They don't need to be leaving their starters out there for 120 and 130 pitches an outing trying to win these late-season games. That goes for Sale and everybody else on the pitching staff.

But as long as Sale is feeling good and throwing well, there's no reason he shouldn't take the five or six scheduled starts he should get between now and the end of the season.

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