Chicago White Sox ace Sale wants to be more efficient
News and notes from SoxFest:
Chris Sale led the American League with 274 strikeouts last season, setting a Chicago White Sox record in the process.
Considering Ed Walsh held the top spot since 1908 -- when he struck out 269 while throwing a mind-boggling 464 innings -- Sale has every right to be proud of his accomplishment.
Now, for the flip side.
Striking out major-league hitters typically requires extended effort, and it also runs up the dreaded pitch count.
Sale ran out of gas down the stretch last season, going 0-4 with a 5.04 ERA in 5 September starts.
The Sox' ace left-hander also ranked sixth in the AL with 3,323 pitches thrown.
Before doing some light throwing Friday at UIC, Sale and pitching coach Don Cooper talked about the importance of being more efficient.
"You can't strike a guy out on strike one or strike two," Sale said. "Just try to get quick, easy outs. That's the name of the game. It's just throwing more quality strikes earlier in the count.
"I think a lot of coaches everywhere say you want them on or out in three pitches. If you can live by that, you're doing all right."
Avisail Garcia, who is coming off a disappointing 2015 season and is in danger of losing his starting job in right field, had company when he worked with White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson for three days in Miami in early January.
Jose Abreu also was present, and he liked what he saw from Garcia, who had a .257/.309/.365 hitting line with 13 home runs and 59 RBI last season.
"What we did in Miami was very important, especially to see Avi in the shape that he is, and the kind of mindset that he is having now," Abreu said through a translator. "It's very good. I think that this could be his breakout year.
"When I look at him, I think that, wow, he could be that kind of player that all people were suspecting he could be last year."
With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, the Sox feel good about the top three spots in the rotation.
Erik Johnson and John Danks fill out the starting five for now, but keep an eye on Carson Fulmer.
Drafted No. 8 overall in last year's draft after a standout collegiate career at Vanderbilt, Fulmer should open this season at high Class A Winston-Salem or AA Birmingham.
"The funny thing is, if Carson contributed to us in 2017, the year after this one, that would be an extremely quick developmental path," general manager Rick Hahn said. "And I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.
"Given how quick Chris Sale came along and how quickly Carlos Rodon came along, I think there is this mild thought in the back of some people's head that Carson will be on the same path given his talent, given his makeup, and the fact that we've seen other guys do it.
"We're not ruling anything out. The good ones have a way of forcing that time frame and letting you know when they're ready, and once they do we'll create the opportunity. But for him to follow the Sale and Rodon path is a very high bar and I think our expectations are a little more off into the future."
When the White Sox are playing competitive baseball, veteran TV broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson can hardly contain himself.
But there were many times last season when Harrelson was silent for long stretches.
"When the team stops hitting, I stop talking," said Harrelson, who is cutting his broadcast schedule back to mostly road games this season. "What am I going to elaborate on? You see the same thing as me."
Jose Contreras, a key starting pitcher for the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, is still pitching at the 44.
"One more year," he said.
Contreras pitched in Taiwan and Mexico last year, and he will play for Tigres de Quintana Roo in Cancun this year.
• Follow Scot's reports on Twitter@scotgregor.