As part of their continuing effort to be the rare baseball team that acknowledges the turn of the century, the Chicago White Sox invited myself, and a few other prominent Sox bloggers to participate in a conference call with Chris Sale Thursday afternoon. I definitely heard J.J. Stankevitz of White Sox Examiner, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox, and another SSS'er or two on the line, and I imagine there was somewhere between 1 and 145 guys listening silently.
South Side Sox now has the complete transcript up. Even then, the following synthesis of the notes I scribbled down while sitting in my car on the cell phone should give you the gist of the proceedings.
On his absent change-up, and newly prominent slider: Chris
expressed that the gradual disappearance of his change-up (a go-to pitch
in college), and emergence of his slider (a show-me pitch in college),
was more of a thing that just kinda happened without any particular design.
He postulated that it may have been due to him facing an inordinate
number of lefties, but views it as a positive development, because he's
still really comfortable with his change-up, and now has developed equal
confidence in his slider.
He's right, that does sound good.
New pitches?: Despite the tendencies of Don Cooper, Chris says
there's been no efforts to teach him a cutter, or a "three-finger
fastball", and that the focus has been on refining his existing
Early rise: While speculation remains that one of the reasons
Sale was so quick to sign is that he was promised a quick rise, it's
pretty clear he never expected to pitch in 2010, and has been
appropriately attempting to be a sponge during his rise. He cited
teammates in Winston-Salem and Charlotte as resources for insight and
advice as well as Matt Thornton, Bobby Jenks (on the subject of
closing), and even Scott Linebrink (do as he says, not as he does).
Clearly the topic du jour was Sale's role on the 2011 team; and while he
was very candid and off the cuff about pitch types and strategy, he was
a lot more prepared in what he was going to say to that regard. Not to
say he was dishonest at all, but just that he was ready for that line of questioning.
Sale's stance on that topic is best summed up with his own statement of, "I
just want to pitch." He was adamant that he has no feeling either way
on his role, and is willing to close, be a long reliever, start, start
for a month and move back, or whatever. Chris acknowledged Cooper's
preferences for him, and said he understands why he has them, but really doesn't
mind switching mid-season.
However, Sale acknowledged that he is preparing to start just in case
and is working on his endurance (though he's not sure if that will mean
decreased velocity), but also said that the adrenaline rush of closing
was a blast.
Now, could Sale really not care about what role he has? Yes and no.
No, in the sense that every pitcher has their preferences, without
exception. Yes, in the sense that his preferences aren't fully
formed yet, and he--practically still a rookie--doesn't feel he's in the
position to make demands when the real focus is on learning, getting
better, and earning his roster spot.
I flipped in one question at the end about how he felt about being
thrown into a high leverage situation on the road for his first MLB
appearance, and he pretty easily couched into his larger thesis that he
"just wants to pitch" and will serve in any role he's asked. He
credited his teammates for helping him get over the rough outing right
Overall, Sale was very well-spoken, forthright, and accommodating for a
21 year-old being made to talk to weird internet people over the phone.
Thanks to Scott Reifert, Marty Maloney, and most of all, Chris Sale, for getting this thing together.