GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura has not yet named a starting pitcher for opening day. Perhaps he should go ahead and end the suspense and hand Chris Sale the ball.
After the way the 23-year-old left-hander pitched on Monday in a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch, it is difficult to imagine anyone else throwing much better.
Making his second start of the spring and first since signing a new five-year, $32 million contract on March 7, Sale was the picture of efficiency. He gave up just one hit and faced the minimum 15 batters through the first five innings before giving up a home run to Yorvit Torrealba and another hit to begin the sixth.
“Today was one of those clicking-on-all-cylinders days where you’re out there and you just feel relaxed,” said Sale, who was 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings in 2012. This spring, he is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA.
“My goal is to throw strikes, attack the (strike) zone, be where I want to be,” he said.
Paul Konerko, serving as the DH, hit his fifth home run of the spring to lead off the second inning against Colorado left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
Sale threw an efficient 58 pitches, and it did not seem like he was laboring at all. About the only challenge was when he lost his balance while taking a bad throw from Adam Dunn while covering first for the final out of the fifth.
“That was crazy,” said Sale, who nearly fell before regaining his footing.
Before Sale went out for the sixth, Ventura told him that he likely would face only a batter or two. The results made Ventura’s decision easy. Sale promptly went to the bullpen and threw about 15 more pitches.
Konerko had a share of the Cactus League lead in home runs entering the game. His homer on Monday was the ninth hit in his last 13 at-bats. He is hitting .357 for the spring and appears to be feeling little or no effects after having surgery to remove a particle from his left wrist on Oct. 4.
Pomeranz, making a bid for a spot in the back of the rotation for first-year manager Walt Weiss, enhanced his chances with his effort against the White Sox. He was making his third appearance and second start.
Pomeranz gave up two earned runs on four hits, walked two and struck out three in four innings.
“Today, he had better command, in particular with his secondary stuff. That’s a good sign. He was around the zone,” Weiss said.
Pomeranz has worked with pitching coach Jim Wright of late, trying to establish a more favorable arm slot. The result has been that Pomeranz is staying on top of the ball more.
“He was as consistent as we have seen him this spring,” Weiss said.
Torrealba, in his second turn as a Colorado catcher after playing for the Rockies from 2006-09, showed he can make an impact defensively in addition to with his bat.
He picked Jordan Danks off third base with a snap throw in the third inning.
“We pretty much know who Torre is out there,” Weiss said. “He also communicates well with the pitching staff.”
NOTES: The White Sox will have Tuesday off, which is expected to help 3B Jeff Keppinger. He has a sore right shoulder and it was thought that he might be the DH on Monday, but Ventura decided to give him three straight days, counting Tuesday. ... Rockies 1B Todd Helton got just his fifth and sixth at-bats of the spring and looks like he is still rounding into form after having hip surgery last August and knee surgery in November. He has just one hit. ... The Rockies have made their first round of cuts, sending nine players to their minor league camp. ... White Sox C Hector Gimenez is 8 for 15 over his last six games.