"Chris Sale is going to be in the bullpen," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams, addressing the media after pitchers and catchers held their first official workout on Thursday.
The 22-year-old rookie had been in discussions as a possible temporary replacement for Jake Peavy in the fifth starter's spot, assuming Peavy's road to full recovery from season-ending surgery to repair a torn latissimus dorsi muscle in his right shoulder doesn't lead him to Opening Day. But during organization meetings involving the White Sox front office and coaching staff held Thursday morning, it was decided the White Sox were best armed with Sale as a full-time reliever on the heels of his stellar 1.93 ERA posted out of the bullpen in 2010.
That decision won't alter the White Sox decision to use Sale as a starter in Cactus League action, a plan Williams believes will be best-served for the southpaw's overall development.
"This is very important because I had to explain this to my coaching staff as well," Williams said. "The reason I had Chris Sale prepare as a starter is because that's what he has done his whole life.
"So if you now tell him to prepare differently, might you not see the guy you last saw in September? We want him to prepare as he did so we can expect the same guy to show up. That means using all of his pitches and building him up as a starter.
"He has shown he can transfer that to a relief role," Williams said. "Had we said he's going to be a reliever from Day 1, might he prepare as a reliever and not build his arm up and legs up? We want him to be the best guy we just saw."
Manager Ozzie Guillen didn't specify if Sale would become the White Sox closer or be used in a setup role. For Williams, late-inning relief is all about getting important outs. So, if Matt Thornton is chosen as the closer but is needed in the eighth, then the roles will have to be adjusted.
"It's a great scenario if Matt Thornton is the guy because of what he has been doing for the White Sox," Guillen said. "Sale has great stuff to be the closer. A couple of guys out there have closed before. Right now, it's too early for me to say whether this guy is going to be the closer or not."