COMMENTARY | Chris Sale is scratched from his Wednesday, May 22 start, as was announced during the telecast of Tuesday's contest against the Boston Red Sox. He is still scheduled for his Tuesday, May 28 start against the Chicago Cubs. "Posterior shoulder soreness" is the reported reason for the missed start.
Sale's durability has been in question since he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox 13th overall in the 2010 MLB draft. His sidearm motion and skinny frame are the typically cited reasons for this concern, though there is not necessarily hard data to suggest that skinny sidearmers are at additional risk. In an abundance of caution, he began his MLB career in the bullpen.
Last season, when he ended up being a strong Cy Young Award candidate late into the season, he almost lost it all. In a situation not unlike this one, he was scratched from a start and sent to the bullpen. Just several days and one relief appearance later, however, he returned to the rotation without issue and continued on an excellent campaign. It is important to note that the cited reason for this strange sequence of events was elbow soreness, not shoulder soreness.
Almost exactly a year later, he will miss (presumably) one start with shoulder soreness. He has shown no symptoms of injury, as FanGraphs demonstrates that his fastball has risen almost a full mile per hour on average this season.
Many of the prognosticators that have forecasted injury for Sale have pointed to his elbow, specifically, as the likely culprit. The meager research on the topic has focused on elbows, as well. Most experts would say that his lower arm angle is safer for the shoulder than a conventional throwing motion, despite the supposedly increased risk for the elbow.
It is clear that this incident, no matter how severe, has not been exactly foretold by Chris Sale's doomsayers. Likewise, Sale has had an excellent season and has displayed even better velocity numbers than last season.
What other reasons might there be for pulling Sale from his start? First of all, it is likely that he did experience increased soreness in his shoulder. Last season, the White Sox gave Sale several starts off and regularly gave him an extra day of rest. The occasional skipped start may become commonplace for the White Sox's big investment.
Also, I have written about the coming dilemma that comes with the return of John Danks: who will stay on as the fifth starter? With the potential of Hector Santiago and the production of Dylan Axelrod, the decision seems to get more difficult with each round of the rotation.
John Danks is likely to be announced as Friday, May 24's starter against the Miami Marlins. His return would have signaled the end of either Santiago's or Axelrod's run as a starting pitcher, for now. With Sale's scratch, each will have one more chance on the mound.
Santiago had looked very good in his first run of starts before being pulled after a string of walks in his latest outing. Despite a couple of rocky early season starts, Axelrod has emerged as one of the staff's most consistent arms. Hector Santiago now has the opportunity to show himself as a consistent starting option if he is able to recover in Wednesday's series finale against Boston, in which he will be filling in for Chris Sale.
The fifth starter dilemma may not have anything to do with Sale's extra rest, but it sure is conveniently timed. Chris Sale may, in fact, need a few days to rest up. None of this is unprecedented. White Sox fans can take solace in the fact that the White Sox have some credibility in this situation.
If history is any indication, Chris Sale will be back to his old self on Tuesday against the Cubs.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chris Sale
- Chicago White Sox
- Chicago Cubs