Ventura hopes Chris Sale presents ‘say no to no-no’ quandary

SHARE Ventura hopes Chris Sale presents ‘say no to no-no’ quandary
SHARE Ventura hopes Chris Sale presents ‘say no to no-no’ quandary

Chris Sale totes no-hitter stuff to the mound for almost every start, and for a White Sox fan base whose team has not been easy on the eyes, every fifth night that Sale pitches is must-see TV.

Sale is piling up strikeouts at historic rates, and with so many swings and misses against him, it seems only a matter of time before the 26-year-old left-hander goes deep into a game with a no-no.

At which point, manager Robin Ventura might have a tough call to make. Sale doesn’t exactly pitch to contact, and his pitch counts accumulate quickly, one reason why he has but one, four and two complete games in his first three seasons as a starter and none this year. So it’s easy to imagine him approaching 120 pitches or more through eight innings with a no-hitter on the line, which would be a sticky scenario for Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper.

Would they let the three-time All-Star go for the glory and add another gold star to his resume at the risk of over-taxing his arm or pull him?

“It would be a tough decision,” Ventura said. “I hope he puts me in that spot. Who knows what you’re going to do at that point, depending on how his game is going.”

Sale has, after all, missed starts with arm soreness, even going on the disabled list last season after throwing 127 pitches against the Boston Red Sox on April 17, his fourth start. He has said this year he feels as strong as ever, and who would doubt him as he sits on pace to strike out out a franchise record 286 batters going into Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals in St. Louis?

Cooper reiterated Sunday his biggest responsibility with Sale is keeping him strong. As Ventura said, a decision on pulling Sale or letting him go with a no-no on the line will depend on a variety of factors.

Sale’s health comes first.

“So when we take him out of the game at 110, 111 pitches, that’s the reason why,” Cooper said. “When we let him go for 122, we have all the info. We knew what he did last time, we know if he had a sideline, we know if he had five, six or seven days to pitch on. And again, the main thing for all our pitchers, not just Chris, is to keep them healthy.’’

Cooper said pitchers are “like thoroughbreds and they run the race every five days. We want them to be as strong as they can for each race all the way through. And we’re kind of the jockeys. We know when to go to the whip, when to lay off, when to pull back and all that stuff.”

Sale is on pace for a franchise-record 286 strikeouts, which would be the highest total in the majors since Randy Johnson’s 290 in 2004. Sale was the fourth pitcher to strike out 10 or more in at least seven consecutive starts, joining Hall-of-Famers Johnson (seven in 2001), Pedro Martinez (streaks of seven and eight in 1999) and Nolan Ryan (seven in 1977).

As good as Sale’s slider is and from the angle it comes from, his fastball command and a good changeup allow him to ration his sliders, which can be taxing on the elbow. How many he’s thrown could be one of the factors for Ventura should he be faced with that no-no dilemma.

“With Sale, you don’t want to burn too many of those [sliders], but it’s a big-league ballgame,’’ said catcher Tyler Fowers, who said he has not been shaken off by Sale in the last two seasons. “If that’s the pitch you feel like you need to throw, we’re going to throw it. And if it’s about 40 at the end of the game, so be it. It’s about winning the ballgame when you get out there.’’

If you enjoy watching Sale pitch, how great must it be for Flowers, who has the best seat in the house?

“It’s not as easy of a seat as you would think,’’ Flowers said. “He has a lot of deception, a lot of action on pitches and varying action on pitches. It makes catching a little challenging. But at the same time, that makes it more challenging to hit, too.’’

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