But in moving from late-inning reliever during the 2011 campaign to front-line starter in 2012 and fast approaching his single-season high of 136 2/3 innings, the velocity drop was expected by the 23-year-old White Sox southpaw.
"I didn't expect myself to be throwing hard the entire season, especially getting into August and September," said Sale, speaking prior to Sunday's game and before his return to the starting rotation Monday against the Royals. "For right now, it's just finding a way.
"Whatever I've got on a given day, you've got to go out there and keep pitching. You can't get down on yourself on days where you might not have your best stuff. You've still got guys that are fighting to win and you've still got to go out there and fight to win with them."
Sale pitches Monday after getting nine days off in between starts. Manager Robin Ventura said there will be no set pitch count on Sale, but the length of his outing will depend more on how he feels.
The two sides have maintained open lines of communication throughout his first year as a starter, which has produced three extended rests for Sale. The American League Cy Young candidate felt really good during a bullpen session Friday and might just have an extra mile or two on his fastball against the Royals.
"We'll see. Like I said before, if it's there, then cool. If not, you've still got to pitch," Sale said. "It doesn't matter how hard it's going. Just whatever it is, you've still got to make pitches and get outs. Whether it's hard, soft, slow, in, out, up, whatever. You've got to get outs somehow."
Working through a slight dead-arm period and not having his best stuff has taught Sale more about the art of pitching.
"Those are the days you've got to fight," Sale said. "I don't want to say it's easy, but pretty much anybody can go out there with good stuff and be good. Those days when you don't have your best stuff, your arm's not quite feeling right, those are the days you've got to dig deep and just find a way.
"Just keep the ball down and make pitches. Pitching is pitching, and you've still got to go out there and get outs. Hey, sometimes they don't even know you're having a bad day so that's the most important part."