White Sox general manager Ken Williams said this week that left-hander Chris Sale would be given every opportunity to be a starter next season. And Sale, who was drafted in the first round as a projected starter, appears too valuable to stay in the bullpen -- unless the Sox decide to make him a closer.
But Sox pitching coach Don Cooper cautioned against penciling Sale into the rotation just yet.
"I haven't heard that officially because we haven't sat down as an organization, as staff, as coaches,'' Cooper said Tuesday. "We haven't talked about the team as an organization and determined Chris Sale's role for next year.
"My guess is that's next - sit down with [the new] manager and we'll talk about the team. We all have to take a step back, sleep on a few things, take the emotion out of it and as intelligently as we can and set things up.''
The Sox have other rotation question marks. Will Mark Buehrle re-sign? Will John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd be traded? There is no question that Sale has a big upside. Asked about Sale's role in 2012 after the final game of the season -- in which Sale blew a save in an opportunity to save games on consecutive days -- Cooper was noncommittal.
"I see him right now as a top-flight first-year guy in the bullpen who is a bad son of a gun,'' Cooper said. "This guy is tough. He can pitch. He has heart, smarts, [guts]. He's got everything you want in a pitcher. And if we leave him alone, my guess is he's going to continue that.
"The other option do we decide as an organization to start him. Is that the best thing next year for him for his career to keep going? That's where we haven't had the discussions yet. That's where Chris Sale is right this second. He's good.
"I think I said it yesterday and said it a lot. You ask a lot of hitters that come to the plate, lefties and righties, they say they don't like this guy. He has a nice future ahead of himself for sure. The challenges ahead are all the challenges I mentioned a minute ago. Come ready, in the best physical and mental shape of his life. That decision, he'll know what he's doing prior to when he gets to spring training.''
It's not like the conditioning is going to change a whole lot. Getting into top shape is top shape, starting or relieving. We'll have to wait and see on that one. Chris Sale had himself a fine season regardless of what happened today.