GLENDALE, Ariz. - Chris Sale has that electric stuff - a fastball that flirts with the 100-mph fast lane and a hard slider that comes at hitters from a difficult angle - but he knows both are worthless without command.
Plain and simple, that's the prized rookie's issue this spring. In competition with fellow left-hander Matt Thornton to be the White Sox' closer, Sale is looking to recapture the command that helped him save four games in four opportunities last year while going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA. He struck out 32 in 21 appearances.
Last summer, he was the kid showing off the stuff that made him a first-round draft pick. This spring, he's finding his way through his first camp. The spotlight is shining brighter, but he says he's not feeling the heat.
"Not really,'' Sale said Wednesday morning. "Every time I go out there it's not like I'm thinking I have to do well because I want to be the closer. I want to do well for my team and for myself. Obviously I am fighting for a job, but when I am out there I am focused on getting guys out and helping my team. Not because I want to be the closer or want this or that role.''
A rocky outing against the Padres on Monday raised Sale's spring ERA to 7.36. He said it's not a matter of throwing strikes, but quality strikes.
"I'm just not locating,'' he said. "If you're not throwing to the right spot it's not going to work. I have to focus on the spot, see it and hit it. I'm struggling because I'm getting hit, it's not like I am walking guys. I feel good about that, at least I am throwing strikes. I just have to work on finishing guys when I get two strikes on them.''
Sale has had problems with his fastball and slider. Against the Padres on Monday, he threw a thigh-high 0-2 fastball that was supposed to be neck high. Single up the middle. When catcher A.J. Pierzynski called for an 0-2 slider in the dirt, he left it up. Another hit.
"It was the perfect call in that situation,'' Sale said.
But poor execution.
Sale gets another shot on the mound today against the Brewers.
"As of now I am not too worried about it,'' he said. "I'm not doing as good as I want or the best I can. I just want to learn from it. You can take something from each bad outing, as much as you can from a good outing.''
"You're not going be perfect every time. The sooner I realize what I am doing, the quicker I'll get out of this. There's a little funk going on right now, I'm not sure exactly what it is but we'll figure it out.''