Chris Sale shows no sign of trouble from foot injury in dominant debut

SHARE Chris Sale shows no sign of trouble from foot injury in dominant debut
SHARE Chris Sale shows no sign of trouble from foot injury in dominant debut

BY TONI GINNETTI

For the Sun-Times

In the fourth inning of the White Sox’ 6-2 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, pitcher Chris Sale threw three different pitches to Trevor Plouffe.

The first was a 79 mph slider, called a strike.

The second was an 86 mph changeup Plouffe missed.

The last was a 97 mph fastball, also swung at and missed.

‘‘That was pretty much an ideal sequence,’’ catcher Tyler Flowers said. ‘‘I think that was the only slider we dropped in early [in a count]. He didn’t have a very good slider today, but we picked spots for it.

‘‘In a sequence like that, I’m glad I was the catcher.’’

Sale gave every indication he’ll continue to make life miserable for hitters — and hopeful for the Sox each time he’s on the mound.

Though he essentially missed spring training after injuring his right foot Feb. 27, Sale was dominating in his season debut. The lefty threw 72 strikes among his 98 pitches in six innings. He fanned eight, walked one and gave up five hits.

The only run he allowed came in the third, when Danny Santana doubled home Eduardo Nunez, who also had doubled. The Sox had given Sale a quick lead, scoring two runs in the first inning against Phil Hughes (0-2).

‘‘The guys got two runs early, and that takes the edge off a little,’’ Sale said.

It could have been more had Jose Abreu not been thrown out at third trying for an extra base on Adam LaRoche’s single to center.

It was the second out of the inning, and it proved costly when Avisail Garcia singled and Alexei Ramirez doubled.

‘‘It could have been four or five runs in that inning, but it’s also being aggressive,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘[The Twins] have made some good throws in the last couple days to get you, but you have to put pressure on to be able to do that. I’m fine with that.’’

Sale and the Sox’ bullpen kept pressure on the Twins throughout, with Javy Guerra, Dan Jennings, Zach Duke (one run) and David Robertson holding them to two hits and one walk.

‘‘Anytime you have a guy like Chris Sale, the offense is like, ‘Let’s push a couple across today, and it’s going to hold up,’ ’’ Duke said. ‘‘It takes pressure off of everybody and really just allows everyone to settle in and do what they know they can do. It’s great to have him back.’’

And back in the same form.

‘‘I think seeing him come all the way back, I think the control, the velocity, everything that he had going on — he looked great,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘It was vintage him.

‘‘He had a little more velocity today. Probably when you’re cooped up on the DL and let loose, he was free and easy.’’

Sale had at least one strikeout in each inning and consistently threw in the upper 90s on decisive pitches.

‘‘I just try to get outs,’’ Sale said. ‘‘I try to change it up a little and mix it up. Whatever works.’’

But it’s more than that, Ventura said.

‘‘It’s not just that he rears back and fires it. He’s pitching,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘No matter what you sit on, if you’re not sitting on the right thing, you’re probably not going to hit him.’’

Sale and Ventura will say that because the injury was to his foot and not his arm, there was less concern about Sale’s return to the mound.

‘‘It wasn’t even my push-off foot,’’ Sale said, downplaying the injury, which happened when he hopped off his truck. ‘‘I’m not hurt anymore. I’m back to being a baseball player.’’

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