The offseason is for big plans, spring training is for hope and the season is for reality. Reality doesn’t always resemble plans and hopes.
That’s not the case with Chris Sale, who in January talked about killing opponents softly this season. So did pitching coach Don Cooper:
“I’m looking for Chris Sale to be a bit more economical with his pitches. Let’s get ’em out quicker. Let’s get strikeouts when we need them. Let’s not try to strike everybody out with the first pitch, second pitch and third pitch. He did that last year. And he got the White Sox’ record that had stood for 107 years.
“I’m not chasing strikeout records. I’m chasing improvement in efficiency with all of his pitches that he can stay in a game even a little longer. With all those strikeouts, he ran the pitch total up sometimes. I’d rather get the ninth inning out of him instead of just eight. I’d rather get the eighth inning instead of just seven.’’
Sale has started the season 8-0, which is almost as impressive as the way he has gotten there. He has yet to have a 10-strikeout game. On his way to a club-record 274 strikeouts last season, he had eight straight starts with at least 10 Ks.
On Friday, he threw 99 pitches in a complete-game victory over the Yankees. He struck out six. He used to strike out six while brushing his teeth before a game. The goal is to stay strong all season. In the second half last year, his winning percentage dropped and his earned-run average rose.
“To see him go deeper into games via 70 pitches in the seventh inning is impressive from where he first started, to where he was in the fifth inning up over 90 to 100 pitches,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Now it’s a different animal out there. It’s a scarier one for most people because he’s going to be around later.”
Sale is nicknamed “the Condor’’ for his crazy-winged throwing motion. A scary animal indeed.