Chris Sale officially in the bullpen, let the White Sox 5th starter race begin

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Sale is headed to the bullpen, which is good because there could be some long relief work available // Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

In a move perhaps more foreshadowed than Harmonica (Charles Bronson) killing Frank (Henry Fonda) at the end of Once Upon a Time in the West after three hours of shooting all his employees and giving him the stank-eye, Chris Sale was officially announced as being slated for the bullpen in 2011.

Kenny Williams explained the strategy of keeping Sale's status a mystery as all part of some attempt to preserve his preparation methods:

"This is very important because
I had to explain this to my coaching staff as well: The reason we had Chris Sale
prepare as a starter is because that's what he has done his whole life. So if you
now tell him to prepare differently, might you not see the guy you last saw in

I was on a conference call with Chris Sale.  There's not that much you can glean about a guy's personality in 25 minutes over the phone, but he certainly didn't seem like he was so dumb you had to trick him into pitching good.

Unless it was just this that was going on. (NSFW!)

In any case, a team with 6 MLB-level starters on the roster, is now in the curious position of trying to fill the 5th starter slot until Jake Peavy returns, likely with a Quadruple-A quality player.

The Candidates

Jake Peavy - Career: 1469.2 IP, 3.36 ERA, 8.93 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 1 Cy Young Award
Pros: Proven track record, 91+ fastball, high stamina, actually good at pitching
Cons: Surgically reattached lat muscle, lowest swinging strike percentage of career last season, hasn't topped 200 innings pitched since throwing over 220 in '07.
Outlook:Well of course he starts if he's actually healthy.  He's not expected back in April but who knows?  The only reason he's on here is because the uniqueness of his injury makes his return date uncertain, and the only reason this post is needed in the first place is because the uniqueness of his injury makes his return date uncertain.


A room like this, where he has plenty of space to move around, would be a fine place to lock Peavy in until his shoulder is ready // Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Phil(ip) Humber - Career: 51.1. IP, 5.26 ERA, 6.14 K/9, 4.21 BB/9, Former 1st round pick
Pros: Was well-thought of back when Sadaam Hussein was still alive, decent arm, put together some useful outings last season for Kansas City
Cons: The Royals still saw fit to wave him after last season despite having no pitching, 4th team since '07, out of options, he's literally the garbage of our rivals
Outlook: If the idea is to find who can be most trusted to consistently fling replacement quality innings--and that is starting to seem like the criteria--he seems like a safe bet.  Stamped out any debilitating control problems last season, and kept the ball in the yard (more than he can probably sustain), but fans of past teams describe him in terms usually reserved for un-buttered wheat toast, or Gatorade Propel.  Maybe hold off on buying a jersey.

Lucas Harrell - Career: 24 IP, 4.88 ERA, 5.63 K/9, 6.38 BB/9, Homegrown "Prospect"
Pros: Known commodity--sort of, massively high BABIP last season suggests better results ahead, had that one start against Oakland that was kinda good
Cons: Walkaholism is a disease, and even years of counseling can't guarantee that a relapse won't occur at any moment
Outlook: His WHIP was significantly over 2 during his time in the big leagues, and really should have suffered even more damage than he endured in '10.  Sigh, but, he really only walked around 3.5 per 9 innings during most of his time in the minors, so if he could return to that level while maintaining his high groundball rates...he might coax a few more non-awful starts

Jeff Gray - Career: 40.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 6.02 K/9, 2.23 BB/9, Former Cub
Pros: Bigger arm than the rest of these guys, high groundball rates, legitimately good until whatever the hell happened to him last season
Outlook: On career track record, Gray might be the best option, but last season was horrifying; he lost 2 mph on his heater, couldn't fool anyone, and even lost the control that made him such an asset in the first place.  Fastball/slider is a pretty limited combo to get through 5 innings with.  Really has to show something different for this to not be panic-inducing.

Charlie Leesman - No Major League Experience
Pros: Left-handed, not a failure yet, flipped a switch and dominated in Double-A last season, No. 4 starter of the future
Cons: No major league experience, was really pitching quite poorly at very low levels in the minor leagues for most of 2010, is barely older than me
Outlook: Leesman has the most potential left of anyone on the list, so it's not unfathomable that he could continue his meteoric rise and outpitch the lot of these guys, but with his intense level of inexperience, and the limit of this role, it seems unlikely that they'd chance tossing Leesman into this situation because he looks marginally more promising.  Why even bother acquiring all these Quadruple-A minor league contracts if you're not going to use them for early-season spot starts.  Is that not what they're made for?!?!

To hazard a guess, I would say Humber gets the first crack at things.  His most recent work suggests the highest likelihood for moderate success, and he's the easiest to dispose of if he tanks.  The Sox need to do everything short of chain Peavy's foot to a radiator in an abandoned bathroom to make sure he doesn't come back too early, but you can see why he's rushing.

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