By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) No longer a question mark for durability, White Sox starter Chris Sale has taken a step up to elite status in the world of staff aces. Sale worked his way through a mediocre Twins lineup in Monday’s season opener, allowing three runs in 7 1/3 innings innings of work in his team’s 5-3 win.
Even without his best stuff, the 25-year-old Sale pitched through one difficult inning, allowing two runs in the third. Sale induced numerous groundout while striking out eight and allowing five hits.
“My slider was maybe a tick off today but my change-up was a little bit better than it usually is,” Sale said. ” (Catcher Tyler Flowers ) and I worked to together and got out of it alive.”
Sale like many of the Sox pitchers, Sale had to work without run production last season, leading to an 11-14 record for a pitcher who with decent support would have won 17 to 20 games.
“He is as good as anybody in the league,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “We feel confident when we go out there.”
General manager Rick Hahn astutely signed Sale to a team friendly seven-year deal worth $47 million in March 2013. That deal is $168 million less than what the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw for this year. While Sale isn’t in the Kershaw zone of pitching yet, the White Sox feel he is on the cusp.
“The sky is the limit for (players),” Sale said when asked about room for improvement. “It is about putting in the work, putting in the effort and dedicating yourself to your job.”
Potentially great pitchers like Sale have a different aura around them on game day.
“We know he has great stuff ,” Flowers said. “So if we put a few runs on the board, we know we will have a great chance to win that day. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he is still tough on hitters. His arm slot and wind up adds a little bit more deception to it even against right-handed hitters. He has a great aura about him. All the hitters in the league know who he is. When he is really on — good luck.”
Sale has now gone 2-0 in two Opening Day assignments with a 1.80 ERA (three earned runs in 15 innings with 15 strikeouts).