Sox' Sale feels right at home on U.S. Cellular mound
U.S. Cellular Field is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the major leagues, and the baseball really flies when the weather warms up.
Most pitchers dread taking the mound at the Cell, but White Sox starter Chris Sale thrives on the South Side.
Sale, who opposes the Angels' C.J. Wilson on Sunday night on ESPN, is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 3 home starts this season. Last year Sale was 9-3 with a 2.30 ERA in 14 starts at the Cell.
"It's just like anything, you're more comfortable at your house," Sale said. "You've got the whole crowd behind you, and I've probably pitched here more than anywhere else. I don't know if that's what it is. There's definitely not any level of effort that changes. That's just kind of how it shakes out, I guess."
Sale has been shaky early in the game this season; opposing hitters are batting .316 during the left-hander's first 15 pitches. On pitches 16-75, Sale has held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average.
"Maybe just as the game goes on, you throw a few more pitches and find your arm slot," Sale said. "That's definitely something I want to nip in the bud. I think I've given up a run in the first inning the last few outings. That's something I definitely want to tighten up."
Struggling No. 2 hitter Jeff Keppinger initially was scheduled to bat eighth and play second base Saturday night. When Conor Gillapsie was scratched from the lineup with an upper-respiratory infection, Keppinger moved over to third base and hit seventh.
Like most Sox hitters, Keppinger is off to a slow start at the plate. His ability to handle the bat and put the ball in play earned the free agent a three-year, $12 million contract from the White Sox over the winter, but Keppinger has been unable to get it going.
"You know what the track record is and you are trying to get it out of him," manager Robin Ventura said. "He fits in a lot of different spots in the lineup with the way he can handle the bat. So hopefully there will be some guys on and he can knock in some runs."
Players struggling as badly as Keppinger often are accused of going through the motions, but Ventura said that's not the case with the 33-year-old infielder, who was 1-for-4 Saturday and is batting .193 on the season.
"He's doing it right," Ventura said. "He cares. He might not show it on the outside. He's going the right stuff."
Adam Dunn played first base Saturday, and Paul Konerko was the Sox' designated hitter again. Konerko's always preferred playing first, but he has been the DH in 16 games and played defense in 16.
Manager Robin Ventura obviously is trying to keep the 37-year-old captain as fresh as possible.
"Sometimes you have to take a little back of playing the field as much," Ventura said. "He'll still get time at first base. I don't want him going out there feeling like he can't play. He can still play. It's more trying to get the most out of him."
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