Reporting Adam Hoge
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By Adam Hoge-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) Just like that, Chris Sale is a starter again.
Exactly one-week after being sent to the bullpen — where manager Robin Ventura indicated he would stay the rest of the season — general manager Kenny Williams made the announcement that Sale’s MRI came back clean and he will likely start Saturday against the Royals.
“They truly are looking out for my best interests. It’s just something that might have been maybe a little bit early as far as making a move before getting an MRI or making sure 100 percent that I wasn’t able to (start),” Sale said Friday at U.S. Cellular Field.
So how exactly did the White Sox go from making the shocking decision to move their best starting pitching prospect to the bullpen before quickly reversing that decision just a week later?
“I think a lot of it comes from (being) on the road,” Ventura said. “People weren’t able to sit down face-to-face and go through it, and I think that’s where it started. And now we’re here, everybody can sit down, you got tests done, you’re able to see things and talk face-to-face.”
That doesn’t exactly explain why such a drastic decision was made last Friday if everyone (meaning Williams and assistant general manager Rick Hahn) wasn’t able to talk about it, but it does make it clear that the situation started to change when Williams got involved.
Sale said Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and trainer Herm Schneider were the only ones in the meeting last week in Detroit when the decision was made to send him to the bullpen. That was before the left-hander had a chance to talk to his general manager on the phone Monday in Cleveland.
“The forcefulness in which he wanted to get back on the mound told us some things,” Williams said. “It told us the soreness wasn’t something that was painful enough for us to pull the plug on him. And it told us that he’s got a little extra in the mental department to maybe take the leap from being a middle of the rotation guy to one day being a top of the rotation guy.”
The general manager said Sale had some very strong things to say to him in their phone conversation and almost “crossed the line”. Ultimately, it led to an agreement Friday that Sale will get another chance to start under the condition that he is completely honest about how he is feeling. Williams even warned that Sale could be skipped every once in a while and expressed some concern about the left-hander’s “upside-down” delivery, which is a term used to describe the elbow rising above the shoulder during the delivery.
So how did the MRI come about?
Sale said he was the one who initially brought it up. He wanted to clear everything up and show that he was healthy. In his words, the MRI looked exactly the same as it did when he signed his first contract with the White Sox in 2010. Once the White Sox saw the result, they all met face-to-face in the clubhouse Friday around 4 p.m. and put Sale back in the rotation.
But why all the confusion?
Naturally, Williams blamed the media, even though his manager and pitching coach clearly weren’t on the same page when talking to reporters. One day Sale was permanently in the bullpen. The next, there was a chance he would start again. And Cooper’s interview on 670 The Score Thursday only added to the confusion.
For the record, Ventura said Friday that when they made the decision to move Sale to the bullpen last week, the intention was not to put him back in the rotation a week later.
It’s unclear how much input Williams had in the decision to move Sale to the bullpen last week, but it’s obvious he had all the input in reversing that decision after talking to Sale.
That said, it’s doubtful this issue will go away anytime soon. The White Sox have been consistent since the offseason in saying they are monitoring Sale’s arm closely and they will continue to do so.
Let’s just hope the communication is a little better the next time a big decision is made.
For more White Sox coverage throughout the season, follow on Adam on Twitter (@AdamHogeCBS).