Most Major League hitters are overmatched against Chris Sale. What chance did the Durham Bulls have with the White Sox' two-time All-Star on the hill?
Sale struck out 11 of the 15 batters he faced over four scoreless innings Friday in his first rehab appearance since going on the 15-day disabled list about a month ago with a flexor strain in his throwing arm. Triple-A Charlotte held on for a 2-1 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.
"I'm ready. I'm excited," Sale said. "This was definitely a step in the right direction, in terms of building up, getting my body ready and just getting back in a game atmosphere. It's been almost a month since I pitched in a game, so it was nice to get back out there and get in kind of a game atmosphere instead of throwing in the bullpen or throwing live BPs and stuff like that."
Chicago placed the left-hander on the DL on April 22, retroactive to April 18. In four starts with the White Sox this season, Sale is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA and 29 strikeouts against seven walks over 27 1/3 innings.
Sale threw a career-high 127 pitches over seven innings against Boston in his last outing before going on the shelf. On Friday at Durham, he threw 68 pitches, 43 for strikes.
"I'm just anxious to get out there and, like I said, just get back in that zone, if you will," Sale said. "Competition, you know, batters trying to do everything they can against you, and having a batter in there."
The 2010 first-round pick allowed just one hit -- an infield single off the bat of Robby Price leading off the bottom of the third inning -- and issued two walks, one in the second and one in the fourth. He also threw a wild pitch.
Sale likely will make one more rehab appearance before the White Sox activate him, although he feels ready to return to the mound at U.S. Cellular Field right now.
"It's all part of the process," he said. "I mean, that's not my decision to make. Whatever they've got for me, I'm going to take in stride and do the best I can to get back up as quickly as I can."
Sale was joined in Durham by White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, who is rehabbing a strained right hamstring. Eaton led off and played center field in the opener of the doubleheader and was the designated hitter at the top of the order in the nightcap, going 2-for-6 with an RBI and two strikeouts on the day.
Charlotte got their runs in Game 1 via Eaton's RBI single in the seventh and Matt Davidson's leadoff homer in the second. Davidson, Chicago's top prospect, has four roundtrippers this season.