CLEVELAND - An American League scout following the White Sox said it best after getting a closeup look at left-hander Chris Sale: He's too good to pitch in the bullpen.
"He's going to be starting before too long, right?" he asked.
Yes. Sale will finish the season playing a valuable role in the pen, but there's a very good chance he'll go to spring training in 2011 as a starter. In the meantime, Sale is getting on-the-job training for starting in the major leagues by pitching in relief.
"If you're starting and late in a game you find yourself in trouble, you can look back and say 'this is the job I used to be in.' " Sale said.
Taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Sale made four minor-league appearances, all in relief, before being fast-tracked to the Sox. He posted a 1.91 ERA for the big club late last season, getting four saves.
He worked through one minor bump early this season and is clicking now, with a 1.42 ERA over his last 19 games to lower his ERA from 6.48 to 3.43.
If left-hander Mark Buehrle leaves the Sox as a free agent, a spot opens in the rotation. Starter Edwin Jackson will also be a free agent.
"There isn't a set date or projected time,'' Sale said. "I talk to Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] about it. He says this is the foundation for when you are starting. but I'm worried about what is going on right now rather than what could be in the future.''
Sale is coachable, poised and mature for a 22-year-old. The angle from which he throws his slider, not to mention a mid-upper 90s fastball, presents a challenge to hitters from both sides of the plate. He also has a changeup, which will get more use when he starts
"I've been doing it for longer than I've been in the league; it's what I've done," Sale said "But by no means do I not want to be In the pen. I'm having a great time doing this.