And according to comments made by Ken Williams to MLB.com on Thursday, that plan has not been altered by Sale's current late-inning dominance. In fact, Sale potentially could be part of a six-man rotation at the outset of the 2011 campaign in the mind of the White Sox general manager.
"Well, I'm a big believer of sticking to the plan until there's a reason not to stick to the plan," said Williams, as he sat and watched batting practice in the White Sox dugout. "The plan that was laid out for him was exactly what has happened so far. He would go to the Minors, get his relief shoes on, so to speak, come to the big leagues and play an important role down the stretch.
"He's done exactly that. The second part of that plan was for Chris to go to Spring Training [in 2011] as a starter and compete for a job in the rotation. I see no reason why we have to deviate from that plan. I understand the value of him down in the bullpen and how that sets up the bullpen. But we have the opportunity to stick with the plan in developing him as a starter in Spring Training.
"That allows us to take our time with Jake Peavy and ensure that he's 100 percent ready to go in Spring Training," Williams said. "The worst case scenario? Sale starts off and wins a rotation job in Spring Training and starts off as the fifth guy, which is probably early in the season more valuable than the first left-hander out of the bullpen."
Peavy had surgery on July 14 to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder. While the right-hander said recently that he has regained full range of motion in the injured area, he won't begin throwing again until the start of the New Year.
With the uncertain nature of recovery from this rare injury, Peavy might not be completely ready to take off when the White Sox break camp in late March. That slight doubt gives Sale a rotation opening.
"What it does is allow Jake to ease into his season," Williams said. "At that point, when Jake is ready, we'll check the health of all the other starters obviously, and you can afford maybe to go with six [starters], if you so choose, to make sure everyone is strong throughout the season.
"You also can stick with five and drop Sale back into the bullpen role, thereby you haven't short-changed that much of his development as a starter. We are still looking toward that role in the future, but now, you maximize what is best for the team. That's the plan."
Sale has been even better than advertised since coming to the White Sox following 11 Minor League appearances. Thirteen of his 15 trips to the mound have been scoreless, and he has posted 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and recorded two saves, entering Thursday's finale against the Twins.
Plenty of closing options exist for the White Sox, including incumbent Bobby Jenks, who enters his third year of arbitration as a potential non-tender candidate with his $7.5 million salary. J.J. Putz is a free agent and the White Sox hold a $3 million club option on Matt Thornton for 2011. Hard-throwing Sergio Santos, moving into his second year as a pitcher, also stands as a ninth-inning possibility.
As for the 21-year-old Sale, he's simply happy throwing the baseball at the big league level.
"Pitching is pitching to me, starting or relieving," Sale said. "As long as I have the opportunity to pitch, I'll be fine."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less