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updated: 3/29/2014 8:33 PM

White Sox' Sale has big fan in Kershaw

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  • Chris Sale will be on the mound for the White Sox on Monday when they open their season against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

      Chris Sale will be on the mound for the White Sox on Monday when they open their season against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Associated Press

  • Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw smiles in the dugout during the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels in an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 27, 2014.

      Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw smiles in the dugout during the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels in an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 27, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
 

If he gets a chance Monday, Clayton Kershaw will try to catch the White Sox-Twins season opener on TV.

Chris Sale will be on the mound for the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, and not only is Kershaw a fellow left-handed ace, he's a big fan.

"It a lot of fun to watch him pitch," Kershaw said after matching up against Sale in a March 15 Cactus League game. "It's no fun to face him because he's really good. He's got really good stuff."

Kershaw, who was scratched from Sunday's scheduled start against the San Diego Padres with inflammation in his upper back, knows all about good stuff. Before signing a seven-year, $215 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 15, the 26-year-old pitcher won his second National League Cy Young Award in three years after going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA last season.

"He's got a lot of whip in his arm," Kershaw said of Sale. "It's just God-given if you can throw hard or not. With Chris,

"I think what separates him is his command of three different pitches (fastball, changeup, slider) and being able to throw those off-speed pitches at any time. When a lefty is throwing it 93, 94, 95 (mph) with those types of pitches, it's going to be tough to square up."

With the White Sox and Dodgers sharing a facility in spring training, Kershaw and Sale have gotten to know each other the past few years.

"I watch Chris pitch whenever I can," Kershaw said. "I like watching other lefties. Cliff Lee is kind of my favorite to watch, but I like watching Chris and Gio (Gonzalez). I like to watch all of the lefties that are on the top tier."

Sale, who turns 25 Sunday, is a combined 28-22 with a 3.06 ERA in his first two seasons in the Sox' rotation. He also has 418 strikeouts in 406⅓ innings, which has led many observers to compare Sale to Randy Johnson.

"They are both kind of tall, lanky guys, and they have similar arm angles," Kershaw said. "There are a lot of arms and legs coming at you, so it's tough to pick up the ball.

"But I don't know if Randy Johnson had a changeup, and if he did, I don't know if it was as good as the one Chris has. Chris' changeup is top tier. He has three-plus pitches, and I think he has a little more of an arsenal than Randy Johnson."

If Kershaw can overcome an early injury scare, he again should be one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. Can a comparison be drawn with Sale?

"We are left-handed," Sale said. "Other than that, not really. We both kind of have different pitching styles. I think he's kind of put himself in a different league than I am right now.

"It's kind of like when you guys compare me to Randy Johnson. I'm only 290 wins away and a few thousand strikeouts. Other than that, we are identical."

If he continues to build on his impressive first two seasons with the White Sox, future left-handed aces are likely going to be compared to Sale.

"You try to go out there and be the best you can be," Sale said. "Getting compared to a guy like (Kershaw) is a compliment to me. He's the best in the game, without a doubt. It's definitely something I appreciate, but I have to go out and be myself."

• Follow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter@scotgregor.

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