The initial reaction to the White Sox' decision Friday to move Chris Sale to the bullpen from the starting rotation? Shock, with healthy doses of confusion and concern.
Before the Sox opened a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, manager Robin Ventura announced the surprising switch. Ventura told reporters Sale has been experiencing soreness and tightness in his throwing (left) elbow.
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That is a huge red flag, and it leads to an obvious question: Why not shut Sale down?
Instead, the 23-year-old pitcher is going to pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the season, assuming he makes it that far.
Apparently, Sale is healthy enough to become the White Sox' new closer.
Sale didn't talk to reporters Friday, so it is impossible to gauge his health.
Sox pitching coach Don Cooper did talk to reporters, and he also talked to Sale.
"It's not disappointing to us," Cooper said of the change. "It's disappointing to him because this was something that he's always wanted to do."
Sale was 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 5 starts this season, and he averaged 103 pitches in the first four.
In his last start, against the Indians on Tuesday, Sale was lifted after throwing 88 pitches.
Sale didn't pitch in the White Sox' 5-4 loss to Detroit on Friday night. Starter Jake Peavy delivered another gem, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 7 innings.
Matt Thornton got the final out of the eighth and came back out for the ninth inning.
After making a nice fielding nice play to retire Tigers leadoff hitter Ramon Santiago, Thornton blew the save.
Alex Avila flared a single to left field and Jhonny Peralta followed with a game-winning home run to right field.
The Sox said Sale's elbow won't be subjected to as much wear and tear in the bullpen.
"Listen, we're not making this decision based upon what's best for the team," Cooper said. "In this case, obviously he's starting and doing well. It would be a wonderful thing to keep him in (the rotation). We're doing it because we feel it's best for him, his career and his health.
"It's the best way to keep him healthy and strong. It gives us the best opportunity to do that. It's easier to maintain that and keep tabs on this in the bullpen than it is as a starter. We already know he's a good left-handed reliever. That's been proven over the past one and a half years.
"Now we'll be trying to make him one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, not just in the American League. Chris is going to be fine. He was upset. He wanted to continue to (start). But sometimes we have to make decisions based upon what we feel is best for that individual, and that's what we did."
With Sale in the bullpen, Dylan Axelrod moves into the starting rotation and he'll start against Detroit on Sunday.
Axelrod has allowed 1 run in 3 innings of relief.