What a calendar year it’s been for Chris Sale. He went from “let’s see what Chris Sale can do in the rotation” to injury risk to All-Star to legit phenom to multi-millionaire to Opening Day Starter in the course of 11 months. Robin Ventura is giving the ball to Sale on April 1st. Chris Sale has certainly earned the honor. Even so, the idea of Chris Sale being on the mound on Opening Day doesn’t feel right to a fan base that was used to seeing Mark Buehrle on Day One.
Buehrle is now a Toronto Blue Jay, which makes it impossible for him to pitch for the White Sox in two weeks. Buehrle owned the longest stretch of Opening Day starts this side of Billy Pierce. But if you believe in streaks, the White Sox tradition of going with a lefty on Opening Day has been unbroken since Jose Contreras flopped in 2007.
Jim Margalus at South Side Sox runs down the history of Opening Day starters not named Mark Buehrle and it’s not pretty.
The aforementioned Jose Contreras was Ozzie Guillen’s pick to start the 2007 season. It was an unusually warm day for early April (it was 33 degrees by Thursday. Friday’s game against the Twins was cancelled due to cold. There were snow flurries during the game on Saturday afternoon). The Sox were taking on the Cleveland Indians. Grazy Sizemore deposited Contreras’ first pitch into the Bullpen Bar in right field, and the rout was on.
Of course, we heard rumors that Contreras’ head wasn’t fully in the game because he had been served with divorce papers before the game. Either way, the 2007 opener was so bad that Guillen that Buehrle started every subsequent Opening Day until he left for Florida in 2011.
Elsewhere in White Sox land….
Dayan Viciedo is having himself quite a spring. He’s hitting .325 with an OPS of .891. It’s his best spring since 2011, when he was promptly shipped off to Charlotte.
I hope the performance can carry over to the regular season. There are signs that it can. Viciedo’s double and grand slam on Friday came off of right-handed pitching. Through 14 games, the Cuban Tank (or “Tanks,” as Hawk Harrelson is fond of saying), Viciedo has 13 hits. He had 13 hits in 22 exhibition games last year.
Viciedo is still a free-swinger. He has no walks on the spring, compared to 8 strikeouts (he was punched out 18 times last spring).
The injury bug has been crawling through White Sox camp. Jeff Keppinger is fighting a sore shoulder and Tyler Flowers is fighting a sore back. Yes, there’s two weeks to go until Opening Day. Yes, there’s plenty of time for both to recover from their various aches and pains. But, backs and shoulders are the kind of injuries that don’t go away.
Back problem? Ask Joe Crede, Jim Thome, and Brent Morel about how those injuries work themselves out. Shoulder? Talk to John Danks and Toby Hall.
Here’s hoping the words “Jeff Keppinger’s shoulder” and “Toby Hall’s back” remain in Arizona after the White Sox break camp in Glendale.
Speaking of John Danks:
It’s safe to say he’s not going to be on the Opening Day roster. Based on his performance against the Angels last Thursday, it’s also safe to say that he won’t be ready until May.
That’s fine by me. Jake Peavy rushed back from lat surgery in 2011, and it derailed his entire season.