GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Sale threw 65 pitches in a four-inning simulated game against minor leaguers on Wednesday morning. Pitching coach Don Cooper called it "a great day of work" for the White Sox lefty.
Wednesday marked the Sox' first off-day of spring training. They play the Cubs in Mesa on Thursday with lefty Jose Quintana starting against the North Siders.
Sale's agents reportedly have been in conversations about a contract extension with the Sox. He signed a $600,000 one-year contract on Feb. 22, $110,000 above the major league minimum, and is not eligible for salary arbitration until next winter so there is no need for the Sox to work out a deal now. However, the Sox have worked out multi-year contracts to players such as Sergio Santos and Gavin Floyd in the past, before they became eligible for arbitration.
"We've been kind of back and forth but nothing too crazy right now," Sale said Tuesday.
Sale, 23, posted a 17-8 record and 3.05 ERA with 192 strikeouts over 192 innings in 2012, his first full season as a starter. He finished sixth in the American League Cy Young award voting.
Sale is the likely choice to be the Sox' Opening Day starter.
Talking about an extension indicates the Sox' belief in Sale's durability. His skinny body type and mechanics are causes for injury risk to some, but not for the Sox brain trust, even though his effectiveness tapered off in the second half last season. That was not a big surprise considering he was putting uncharted levels of stress and work on his arm in his first season as a starter.
"As he got above 180 innings last year we started to see a little bit of a decline towards the end which wasn't a shock given his previous highs,'' general manager Rick Hahn said. "So you're cognizant of the innings jump, but we don't take just the objective increase in innings to mean that he's doomed to fail. Mechanics, self-reporting and again what our scouts are reporting is going to carry more weight than just a number year to year.
"In fact a lot of the year-to-year innings jumps that you see with guys at risk has been pretty well disproven over recent years as a warning sign. And look, every pitcher is at risk. Whether he's at a zero-inning jump or a 30-plus inning jump, there's risk involved.''
At 6-6, and about 185 pounds, there's not a lot of meat on his bones. But his delivery is loose.
"Jack McDowell was pretty skinny and he had a good career,'' strength and conditioning coordinator Allen Thomas said of the former Sox ace. "Skinny and strength don't equate. We look at [shortstop] Alexei [Ramirez], you watch him walk down the street and go 'ha,' but he's very, very strong.
"Sale is getting stronger every year. You have to understand where he's at and his age also. There's still a lot of growth to go on. He could grow all the way up to [age] 32, 33 with his last growth spurt.''