Chris Sale is ready to set sail.
After throwing 60 pitches with no problems at all in a simulated game Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox' ace starter is going on a minor-league rehab assignment for 2 starts.
Sale is expected to rejoin the Sox' rotation when the New York Yankees visit the South Side May 22-25.
On the disabled list since April 18 with a strained flexor muscle in his left arm, Sale said he easily passed his most strenuous test to date.
"Today went really well," Sale said. "Very encouraged by the work we got in. I felt very, very good today."
This is the third straight year Sale has had an injury scare. It was his shoulder last season and a tender elbow in 2012.
After throwing a career-high 127 pitches against the Boston Red Sox on April 17, Sale felt discomfort near his elbow and season-ending surgery was the obvious fear.
But after an MRI on April 21 revealed no ligament damage in the elbow, Sale knew it was only a matter of time before he'd come off the DL.
Unfortunately, the elbow scare is going to end up costing Sale five weeks, assuming he makes 2 rehab starts. But that sure beats the alternative.
"When I first found out, I was very concerned up until I got the MRI done," said Sale, who is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 4 starts. "Since the MRI, there's really been zero concern on my end just because I know that it's all muscular. I don't think I've ever said that in my life. But there is nothing -- ligaments, tendons, nothing like that -- so there was never a doubt in my mind. But it was a little slower process than I anticipated."
Knowing Sale, the Sox expect him to try coming off the DL after only 1 minor-league start.
"He's impatient and he feels good," said bench coach Mark Parent, who filled in for manager Robin Ventura Saturday. "Personally, for me, just for me, I'd like to see him pitch up here for us, but the smart decisions come from (general manager) Rick (Hahn) and those guys. We've got to be cautious with him and build him up."
In addition to throwing fastballs and sliders Saturday, Sale threw plenty of changeups during the four-inning simulated game. The change has become his key pitch.
"I'm probably facing more righties than I have and I'm also throwing them to lefties," Sale said. "I don't think before last year I ever threw a changeup to a lefty in my life. I've found that to be a useful weapon out there for myself and being able to mix that in, showing them three pitches instead of just the fastball and slider."
I caught up with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in spring training, and the two-time Cy Young Award winner said Sale's changeup has made him one of the best pitchers in baseball.
"I've had a really good feel for it," Sale said. "I think my changeup is probably my best feel pitch. I get 3-0 on a guy and I probably almost feel more comfortable throwing a changeup just because that's the pitch I have the most feel of and it's kind of the pitch that gets me back on track because I'm really getting extended and paying attention to what I'm doing."