NEW YORK -- When the topic of managing Chris Sale's innings comes up for Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach presents a valid reason as to why that matter isn't currently being enacted for the talented first-year starter.
"It's hard to limit his innings when he's good enough to stay in the game for seven, eight or nine innings," said a smiling Cooper.
Sale picked up his ninth win against two losses by working seven innings and throwing 93 pitches during the White Sox 12-5 victory over the Twins on Wednesday. The 23-year-old leads the American League with his miniscule 2.27 ERA and sits third in the AL with a .198 opponents batting average against.
At 95 1/3 innings pitched, Sale already has surpassed his big league single-season innings mark and is fast approaching his career high of 136 2/3 innings. He figures to be an All-Star selection when the picks are announced Sunday afternoon, but if Sale stays on schedule, he would work Tuesday against the Rangers and then close out the first half at home against the Blue Jays next Sunday.
That Sunday start would make Sale ineligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic, but with Monday's off-day, the White Sox can finesse that schedule. Dylan Axelrod, Thursday's starter, could work on regular rest Tuesday, and Sale gets an extra day by being moved to Wednesday. If Sale starts the fifth game of the second half on July 17 in Boston, he would have a 12-day break aside from the All-Star Game in Kansas City.
"Right now, he's got Texas and then he's got Toronto," said Cooper of Sale. "Until something else comes our way that we have to factor into an individual situation, we are going to stay the course."
As for going from 71 innings in 2011 to somewhere in the 190s in 2012, Cooper believes it's a possible accomplishment with the way the team has handled Sale. That careful approach might mean cutting a start short by an inning with a big lead or continue getting that extra day of rest during the second half.
"I think he can," Cooper said. "He certainly works hard enough. We've given him, as well as everybody else, the days off, extra days, combined with the schedule, combined with strategically putting in an Axelrod. The All-Star break is right around the corner. We've managed him as well as everybody else very well."