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Efficiency keys Sale's success in latest start

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 192 strikeouts recorded by Chris Sale over 192 innings last year doesn't mean the left-hander is focused on the punchout.

It's his focus, actually, if it's a three or four-pitch strikeout. Otherwise, Sale prefers the efficient outing produced during Monday's 3-1 victory for the White Sox over the Rockies at Camelback Ranch, when he needed a mere 58 pitches to get through five-plus innings.

"That allowed me to go back out there for the sixth inning, being efficient and throwing strikes," said Sale, who threw 36 strikes. "If you have one batter that goes eight pitches in the second inning, that can affect you in the seventh."

Sale threw just 13 pitches in the first, 10 in the second, nine in the third, seven in the fourth, 11 in the fifth and eight to two batters in the sixth. Yorvit Torrealba produced the longest at-bat of the game against Sale in that final inning, with Sale's seventh pitch resulting in a long home run.

Even with the positive result, Torrealba had praise for the White Sox ace.

"He throws almost sidearm, and his delivery is kind of weird, too," Torrealba said. "You've got to give credit to the guy. He's got a good changeup and a nasty slider. The ball's moving a lot, especially when he goes away to righties. It seems the ball keeps running away."

Pitching to contact can produce some harrowing moments, as Sale found out in the fourth with three long fly balls. All three were caught, including a nice running play in left made by Jared Mitchell against Eric Young.

His two strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed gave Sale's start an Opening Day feel, with Sale lined up to pitch against the Royals on April 1 at U.S. Cellular Field. But manager Robin Ventura did not officially anoint the southpaw with such an honor.

"We're just not ready to do it yet," said Ventura. "We'll see how everybody does in the next couple of weeks and go from there."

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.

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