On April 22, the Chicago White Sox reluctantly put their ace Chris Sale on the DL with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm, presenting the harsh truth to an injury that had benched him since April 18. Given the recent rash of pitching injuries that continues to plague baseball on all levels, the White Sox took extra precautions in Sale’s rest, recovery and rehab, turning a stint on the 15-day DL into a one-month test.
When Sale went down, Chicago saw its season start to veer towards a similar path. The day Sale went on the DL, the White Sox lost a close 8-6 ballgame to division leader the Detroit Tigers, beginning a stretch in which the Sale-less Southsiders went 13-15, and lost three straight series in one particularly dreary week in mid May.
Tonight, in his long-awaited return from injured purgatory, Sale changed that tone faster than it takes one of his mid-nineties fastballs to reach the plate. Taking the mound the day after his team failed to complete a sweep of the Kansas City Royals, Sale shut down the New York Yankees in his six innings on the mound, giving up one hit while striking out 10. In those six innings, he faced 19 batters, one above the six-inning minimum. His control was immaculate, his location on the spot and his mound presence formidable. The only sign that Sale’s was an arm that needed to be kept in check came after the sixth inning, when manager Robin Ventura lifted him for a reliever after throwing just 86 pitches.
Still, Sale’s return to the mound in and of itself means a lot to the White Sox. For a team that’s struggled harder than most with the incessant injury bug since the beginning of the season, it’s nice to have one of the team’s most important parts back in action. Now boasting a 4-0 record with a 1.89 ERA in five starts on the year, Sale and his strong pitching can have a ripple effect on the White Sox moving forward in the final three games of this series against the Yankees.