CHICAGO -- Hector Santiago would like to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. So would Chris Sale.
But it looks as if only one of the White Sox talented starters will be representing his country on the mound this spring.
Sale, the 23-year-old phenom who finished sixth in the 2012 American League Cy Young voting after posting a 17-8 record with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts over a career-high 192 innings, would consider it a great honor to pitch for Team USA. However, his focus is on the White Sox first.
"I don't think throwing as much as I threw last year and exceeding limits that were set, I don't think throwing in competition earlier than I was supposed to be is best for myself and the team," Sale told MLB.com during a phone interview from his Florida home. "I want to be as strong as I can for the whole year, for myself and for my team. I want to still have gas left in the tank if we get into October like I hope.
"It would be awesome representing our country and playing in the World Baseball Classic. At the same time, my teammates are counting on me and I'm counting on myself to be there for those guys this year and come back as strong, if not stronger. I just don't think pitching in competition before I was supposed to would be best for myself and the team."
Santiago, who turns 25 in a month, fully intends to play for Team Puerto Rico. He currently is pitching for Gigantes de Carolina in the Winter League there, having allowed just one run over two starts, while striking out 13 in 11 innings.
His winter workload could go as high as seven starts, so Santiago feels as if he'll be prepared to go from the offseason right into early competition in the first round of the Classic from March 7-10 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Santiago wanted to play for Puerto Rico in the last tournament, but wasn't asked.
"As long as the White Sox have no problem with it, I'm happy to go," Santiago said. "It's something I want to experience."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.