The hard-throwing southpaw has a career 2.58 ERA in 79 career games, with 12 saves and 111 strikeouts over 94 1/3 innings. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper always has talked about the sky being the limit with regard to Sale's potential -- adding that it would be interesting to see Sale in charge of 100 pitches per outing, as opposed to 25 or 30.
"We used him initially out of the bullpen to get his feet wet in the Majors," said Williams of Sale. "In 2010, we were contending and wanted to win. We thought using him out of the bullpen would help our chances. In 2011, we thought having Chris in the bullpen would give us the same chance to win or a better chance to win."
Williams had Sale prepare as a starter going into Spring Training 2011, with the uncertainty of Jake Peavy's recovery from 2010 surgery to reattach his lat muscle. Sale quickly moved into his late-inning relief slot once arriving in Arizona -- silencing a minor controversy over Sale's role, stemming from Cooper not wanting the young hurler to start for four or five games in place of Peavy and then move to the bullpen.
Plans still could change, but Sale would enter 2012 with nothing but starting on his horizon. He would be joining an existing established rotation of Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, with Philip Humber having a leg up on youngster Zach Stewart to fill out the front five. Of course, free-agent-to-be Mark Buehrle stands as the X-factor in what could be an elite group of starters.
The White Sox bullpen remains steady with Sergio Santos, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and Will Ohman potentially joined by Addison Reed.
Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and even Gordon Beckham, at just 25, figure into a youth movement talked about at the end of the season by Williams -- with a focus as much on 2013, '14 and '15 as the present. Accomplished veterans such as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios will need to bounce back from abysmal 2011 efforts to help the team moving forward, but on Monday, Williams admitted that few jobs are guaranteed over the season's long haul entering the 2012 campaign.
"That would be accurate," Williams said. "They go in, obviously, with their proven track record with them -- and, hopefully, 2011 is an aberration. They also go in having to compete for playing time, but obviously with the upper hand if they play well because they have the long history. We are better if they perform.
"I can't reasonably predict what the young guys are going to do because, while they are very talented, there's no history. There's no track record. At the same time, we have to allow ourselves some time for veterans, who didn't have the years they were accustomed to, [to have the chance to] bounce back.
"Before you can reasonably gauge where your team's chances are, we may have to allow this to happen," Williams said. "It might be until the middle of next year [before] we know who we are and our course of direction."