By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In a nice little twist to end the Chicago White Sox’s 2016 season, ace left-hander Chris Sale will pitch the finale Sunday against the Twins.
Sale last pitched Tuesday, winning his 17th game of the season. After that game, he said it was up to the team whether he would make another start. The White Sox have decided he’ll do just that.
Ventura made the announcement after conferring with Sale prior to Thursday’s game against the Rays at U.S. Cellular Field.
“We aren’t doing it for numbers,” manager Robin Ventura said. “That is a part of being a teammate and stuff. So we will put a pretty good lineup out there.”
“I talked it over with him, and at first it looked like, ‘OK, he doesn’t necessarily have to pitch.’ He said he wants to throw. That is a good sign. He is motivated to throw, so he needs to go do it.”
Sale came of age as a pitcher this season. The goal from spring training on was to pitch to contact and stay in games as long as possible. He accomplished both objectives. Sale has thrown a career-high 221 2/3 innings so far and averaged more than seven innings per start, the most in baseball.
Sunday will mark his 32nd start of the season, also a career-high. Sale is 17-9 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
“We went into this year trying to do something better for the long haul,” Sale said Tuesday. “I got burned a couple of times this year. Who is to say that wouldn’t have happened if I was still pitching the other way. We made these adjustments along the way and moved forward.”
Working with the White Sox trainers Herm Schneider and Brian Ball and strength and conditioning instructor Alan Thomas has been a vital to Sale’s success. Sale struck out a franchise-record 274 batters in 2015. He has still fanned 224 this year without the max-effort approach that burned him out late last season.
“No doubt 100 percent this is the best I ever felt on baseball field this time of year,” Sale said. “I think this was the best overall for me feeling strong all year. I still have more in the tank.”
Sale leads baseball with six complete games this season.
“It all starts with the work in the offseason and trickles into spring training,” he said. “A lot of good people have helped me get through it.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.