Based on the way Chris Sale pitched in the first inning of Saturday night's start at U.S. Cellular Field, you could almost picture him placing another phone call to White Sox general manager Kenny Williams when he finally made it back to the dugout.
It would have gone something like this:
"Kenny, um, yeah, all that stuff about me wanting to get back to starting? Did you really think I was serious? The bullpen, that's for me."
It already has been an interesting month for Sale, to put it mildly.
He started against the Cleveland Indians on May 1, pitched well, but was lifted after throwing 88 pitches.
Three days later Sale was pulled out of the rotation because of concerns about his left elbow. He also was anointed the Sox' new closer.
An MRI, a phone call to Williams, a meeting with Williams, manager Robin Ventura and his coaching staff and team doctors and many misunderstandings later, Sale made his way back to starting.
But after waiting out a 56-minute rain delay at the start, Sale looked out of place in the first inning of Saturday's 5-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
"The first inning was terrible as far as command, and I didn't have any off-speed support," Sale said. "I was kind of throwing the ball all over the place. I collected myself and tried to move forward after that."
Sale threw 42 pitches in the first inning as the Royals sent nine hitters to the plate and scored 3 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks and an error by second baseman Gordon Beckham.
As Sale's pitch count soared, Zach Stewart started warming up in the bullpen.
"I felt great," Sale said. "The arm felt great, my body felt good, the mind was right. I just didn't put it all together."
Sale did put it together after the opening inning, and he wound up pitching 5 innings. The 23-year-old lefty allowed 3 runs on 7 hits while throwing 103 pitches. Considering his sluggish start, that's not too bad.
"Just one of those things," manager Robin Ventura said after the White Sox' winning streak ended at three games. "You don't see it becoming an issue. He found it and got through it."
Sale retired nine Royals in a row after the early damage, so he has something to build on for the next outing.
"I was mentally and physically prepared for this start, just like any other," he said. "It just wasn't there tonight. Bouncing back from (the first inning) was big, trying to turn the momentum mindset differently. That's what they needed from me the first inning, too. I got outpitched."
Sale was outpitched -- by Luke Hochevar.
The Royals' right-hander came in with a 9.00 ERA, the highest among qualified American League starters. But Hochevar has been tough on the Sox throughout his career, and the odd trend continued Saturday.
Hochevar scattered 3 singles before exiting after 7 innings.
"You know, kind of getting it over, getting ahead early," Ventura said of Hochevar. "That was the big thing, and then he had us chasing. He just kept us off balance. He would throw a quick pitch or slide step. It's not easy to pick him up tonight."