GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first pitch thrown by Chris Sale during a simulated game against White Sox Minor League hitters came around 9 a.m. MT on Wednesday at the Camelback Ranch complex.
That's an early call time, even for Spring Training work.
But early is no problem for the southpaw, whose young son, Rylan, pretty much serves as a human alarm clock every morning.
With the rest of the White Sox having a scheduled off-day, Sale threw the equivalent of four innings and 65 pitches in what was termed by pitching coach Don Cooper as "a great day of work" for the 23-year-old.
Sale is set to pitch next on Monday at home against the Rockies. If the schedule goes as planned, he will have five days' rest after his final Cactus League start on March 26 in Surprise against the Rangers before making his first career Opening Day trip to the mound on April 1 at U.S. Cellular Field against the Royals.
This Opening Day topic was addressed by Sale and Jake Peavy, the other likely candidate to start Game 1 of the regular season, as far back as SoxFest. In knowing the team-first character shown regularly by both of these individuals, it was not surprising that Sale endorsed Peavy to MLB.com and Peavy strongly did the same for Sale.
Manger Robin Ventura really has the only vote that counts in this matter, and he has not made his decision public as of yet. There's really no mystery to Ventura holding off, as John Danks wasn't given the nod until March 26 last spring -- just 10 days before the season opener in Texas.
There's a chance that both pitchers already know their first-series order. Sale seems to be the perfect choice to start the White Sox on a winning note, as a 9-3 home record with a 2.30 ERA amassed over 94 innings was part of his All-Star first season as a starter that finished at 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings. Sale finished 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA against the Royals, but lost his two September starts against Kansas City.
"Absolutely, it's an honor. Throwing Opening Day, just the excitement that goes into Opening Day," Sale said during an interview session following his first Cactus League start on March 1. "I was a kid in the candy shop the last couple Opening Days, so to actually be playing would mean the world to me."
Along with the Opening Day discussion, CSN Chicago reported on Tuesday that Sale confirmed talks between the White Sox and his representatives about a potential contract extension. Sale will earn $600,000 in 2013 and has three years of arbitration eligibility starting with 2014, meaning the White Sox could choose to lock him down possibly even through his first year of free agency via a multi-year deal.
Earlier precedent for such negotiations to keep talented youngsters in the fold has been set with Gavin Floyd's four-year, $15.5 million deal, Alexei Ramirez's four-year, $32.5 million extension and the three-year, $8.25 million extension agreed upon with then closer Sergio Santos, who was promptly traded at the 2011 Winter Meetings. Sale is an outgoing young man and a good representative of the organization, quickly becoming one of the faces of the franchise.
As general manager Rick Hahn, director of conditioning Allen Thomas, Cooper and Sale himself recently told MLB.com, they also believe in Sale's long-term durability. That belief comes with Sale's funky delivery, thin build and 121-inning increase from 2011 to 2012 taken into consideration.
"Certainly last year we felt he was one of the best starters in the AL," Hahn said during a recent interview. "And we are optimistic going forward about that."
"Here's what I'll say. He's good and he wants to be good," Cooper said. "He wants to make every pitch. He wants to win every game. I like that competitive nature about him and how he wants to be."