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posted: 3/28/2013 8:43 PM

White Sox' Sale eager to get the ball rolling

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  • Chris Sale will be on the mound Monday when the White Sox open the season against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.

    Chris Sale will be on the mound Monday when the White Sox open the season against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Associated Press


Memorable, it was not.

Scrambling to fill a hole last May when starting third baseman Brent Morel went down with a back injury, the White Sox signed Orlando Hudson shortly after the San Diego Padres released him.

A natural second baseman, Hudson was overmatched at third after taking over for Morel. Hudson didn't hit much, either, batting .197 with 2 home runs, 17 RBI and a .262 on-base percentage in 51 games.

For Sox fans, there's not much to remember about the short-lived Hudson era. But he did manage to provide one of the top quotes of the 2102 season, on May 23.

After Chris Sale allowed just 2 hits over 7 shutout innings in a start against the Minnesota Twins, I asked Hudson for his thoughts.

"That young buck has a (heck) of an arm," Hudson said. "He just slings that bad boy. God!"

Well said.

Sale drew similar -- albeit less emotional -- raves from teammates, opposing hitters and managers, scouts, general managers, fans, beer vendors and just about everybody else while going 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings last year, his first as a major-league starter.

Physical concerns still hover over Sale. At 6-feet-6 and maybe 180 pounds, his body does not seemed suited for 33-35 starts and 200-plus innings per season.

And don't forget late last April, when Sale was supposed to shift from starter to the bullpen after experiencing elbow discomfort.

The pain eventually passed, Sale talked his way back into the rotation, and he quickly blossomed into the White Sox' No. 1 before finishing No. 6 in American League Cy Young Award voting.

Before taking the mound Monday is the Sox' season opener against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field, Sale reflected on 2012.

"Yes and no," Sale said when asked if he was surprised by the spectacular results. "Yes, because this is the highest level you can play at, and it was a great season. I was fortunate for a lot of things and grateful for that.

"But the competitive nature inside of an athlete and inside of me, sometimes you kind of think you are better than you are maybe. I always felt I could do it, but it's one of those things where you don't always think you are as good as you are in whatever it is.

"I'll just try to keep the same attitude and keep the same work ethic."

The White Sox obviously think Sale is going to stay healthy and continue putting up numbers worthy of Cy Young recognition.

That's why they signed the left-hander to a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension in early March.

Considering the way the baseball flies during spring training, it's difficult to make definitive judgments on individual performance.

Sale, however, was clearly a superior specimen in the Cactus League this year, going 4-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 5 starts.

Before Tuesday's final spring tuneup, Sale was pleased with his training camp and fired up about the upcoming season.

"So far, so good, knock on wood," he said. "I feel loose, and I feel like my arm is bouncing back the way I want it to. With the programs we have here it helps us out. I follow that, lean on these guys and go out there every fifth day.

"I've been ready for the regular season since Day One and a half. It's fun getting work in, getting prepared, but there is no denying that we're all excited for the season to start."

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