It's been an interesting last few days for the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale, to say the least.
Just over a week after being moved to the bullpen to take over as closer, Sale returns to the starting rotation Saturday night in the second of three against the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Sale (3-1, 2.73 ERA), who compiled a 2.58 ERA in 79 relief appearances over the previous two years, opened this season in the rotation. While the left-hander thrived in his new role - going 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA over five starts - he was shifted back to the pen May 4 due to concerns about his sore throwing elbow.
The White Sox (16-17), however, chose to reinsert Sale back into the rotation Friday after his MRI came back clean.
"The forcefulness in which he wanted to get back on the mound told us something. It told us the soreness wasn't something he felt was painful enough where we had to pull the plug on him," general manager Ken Williams said. "If Chris Sale believes in something he will stand up for himself and he doesn't care who he stands up against. He had some very strong things to say to me."
"He's unique. He earned the right through his performance to get to the majors quickly. To a certain degree we're treading on new ground, but we're treading on cautious ground."
Limiting opponents to a .205 average, Sale looks to help Chicago match its longest winning streak of the year. The White Sox posted their third consecutive victory Friday, defeating the Royals 5-0 behind starter Gavin Floyd and another impressive offensive display from Adam Dunn.
Dunn went 2 for 2 with a pair of walks and his 11th homer - matching his career-worst total from 2011. The designated hitter, who had struck out at least once in each of his previous 36 games, is batting .324 with seven homers in his last 12.
"He's been on a nice roll, he had nice at-bats tonight," manager Robin Ventura said. "He's in a nice spot. He's seeing the ball well and good things happen when he makes contact."
The Royals (11-20) could have a hard time getting back on track behind Luke Hochevar (2-3, 9.00), who's been shelled in each of his last two outings. Five days after surrendering a career worst-tying nine runs in a 9-3 loss at Detroit, Hochevar was tagged for seven in 2 1-3 innings of Sunday's 10-4 loss to the New York Yankees.
"I need to get back to square one and figure it out," he said. " ... Obviously, this is not where I want to be. No, it's definitely where I want to be. I need to get back to helping the ball club and doing the things I need to do to pitch deep into games and get outs. That's the bottom line."
Hochevar has allowed at least seven runs three times and two or fewer in his other three outings.
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in his last three starts against the White Sox. A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios are both 2 for 17 lifetime versus Hochevar, though Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez have gone a combined 14 for 32 (.438) against him.