“Are you nervous?”
Sale explained that, no, he won’t be nervous to stare down the Chicago White Sox here Tuesday night. He will, however, be emotional. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2010, made his major-league debut with them later that year and spent seven seasons with them until getting traded to the Boston Red Sox last December.
“A little of me will be [nervous], but I think I’m more looking forward to this opportunity than any other emotion just because it’s fun,” Sale said Monday before the opener of a three-game series in which the White Sox honored Sale with a highlight video before the bottom of the first inning and he tipped his cap to the crowd. “I’m playing against my friends. It might be hard not to smile out there on the mound at a couple of them. It’s fun. These are my buddies. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere and a fun time.”
Sale, 28, had plenty of good times with the White Sox, including five All-Star Game selections and four top-five finishes in the American League Cy Young Award voting. But Chicago didn’t make the playoffs with Sale, and with the organization committed to a full-scale rebuild, the time came for both sides to move on.
But Sale’s tenure with the White Sox wasn’t without controversy. Last season, in particular, he was involved in two disputes with management. In spring training, he led the players in opposition of first baseman Drake LaRoche’s son not being allowed in the clubhouse as frequently as before. And during the season, he cut up a set of throwback uniforms before a game because he didn’t find them comfortable.
Sale didn’t address those incidents directly but labeled them “blips on the radar amongst a lot of really good times.”
“More times than not, it was great here, and I appreciated it,” Sale said.
With the Red Sox, Sale might be having the best season of his career. In 10 starts, he’s 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 73 innings. He recently tied his own major-league record of eight consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s only the fourth pitcher since 1900 with 100 or more strikeouts through his first 10 starts of a season, joining Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens.
None of that comes as a surprise to his former teammates or White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
“He’s one of the top 10 pitchers in the world,” Cooper said. “There’s always a discussion: Who’s the best, who’s this, who’s that? All I know is he’s got to be in the top 10 of anybody on the planet.”
Sale was asked if he regrets anything about his time with the White Sox.
“Any regrets? Nah, nah,” Sale said. “It got me to where I am today. Can’t change the past. Just try to become better in the future. Appreciative of my time here, the people I’ve met here, the relationships I’ve built. Without a lot of people in this building, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, that’s for sure.”