White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper watched Chris Sale make his debut Wednesday night with the Boston Red Sox.
And Cooper had to admit seeing the former ace in another uniform didn’t sit so well.
“I did see Sale a little bit,’’ Cooper said before the Sox routed the Tigers 11-2 Thursday to even their record at 1-1. “And it’s hard to watch.’’
Cooper, who had Sale under his wing from the time the Sox drafted him in the first round in 2010 to the time they traded him away in December, has called the left-hander the most talented pitcher he has ever coached. So it was tough to see him go.
Sale was traded for four highly regarded prospects. But after his first outing at Fenway Park, he reminded everyone why he was worth the price. The five-time All-Star pitched seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Pirates, walking one and striking out seven in the Red Sox’ victory.
“He’s still good,’’ Cooper said. “Somebody from the Boston papers [asked] me ‘do you think he’s going to be OK in Boston.’ I said if his fastball is still there, his changeup is still there and his breaking ball, I think he’ll fit in nicely. And he did really good.
“But it actually was a little difficult to watch.’’
Cooper did mention that.
He said he hasn’t talked to Sale since spring training.
“It’s hard because he’s in the East and we are busy doing our thing and he’s busy doing his thing,’’ Cooper said. “It was the same way with [Mark] Buehrle and anybody that leaves. There are a lot of guys who leave over the years.’’
Some are easier to part ways with than others. Cooper was asked if seeing Sale in his Cy Young form made it all the more difficult.
“No it’s not. It wouldn’t be easier to watch if he was getting whacked,’’ he said. “I’m pulling for him to do well. What’s hard to watch is him doing it in a Boston uniform.’’
Sale is stoked to be pitching for a team with postseason hopes. The Sox failed to play .500 ball for four consecutive seasons with him and Jose Quintana in the rotation, so they changed course and unloaded Sale to build for the future.
For Cooper and almost everyone in the organization, therein lies the underlying pain of watching Sale continue to soar: You had Sale, a bona-fide ace to build a championship rotation around, and felt moved to get rid of him.
And so the Sox hang their hat on prospects such as second baseman Yoan Moncada, right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz and center fielder Luis Basabe, who they got for Sale. And the three good pitching prospects they received from the Nationals for Adam Eaton.
Moncada, a consensus top-three prospect in all of baseball, opened the season Thursday night at Class AAA Charlotte. Kopech, one of the most intriguing right-handers in the minor leagues, is at Class AA Birmingham.
“The guys we ended up getting in return are significant returns,’’ manager Rick Renteria said Thursday. “Obviously they’re not in the big leagues right now and everybody always talks about you’re trading out an established, solid, All-Star major-leaguer. For us, the hope is the guys we get in return are significant and they’re going to impact us in a big way here in the near future.’’
However, for guys like Cooper who nurtured guys like Sale, turning the page will take some time.
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