Humble Sale a true difference-maker

White Sox ace won't heap praise on himself, but Ventura, others will

Humble Sale a true difference-maker

CHICAGO -- There are few things that Chris Sale likes doing less than talking about himself in the context of great pitchers: present, past and future. Maybe seeing a bad movie or possibly paying taxes. Definitely missing most of Spring Training due to an avulsion fracture in his right foot sustained during an accident at his Arizona home on Feb. 27.

Whether Sale likes to discuss his continued excellence or not, the left-hander is a difference maker. One could argue that not having Sale available early on stood as a major factor in the White Sox 0-4 start, with no offense to any other top talent on the roster.

Sale is a winning-streak extender or a losing-streak stopper. He's a clubhouse leader, and as proven by his six-inning, 98-pitch effort during a 6-2 victory over the Twins Sunday, Sale stands as an intimidating presence just by his name being listed as that day's probable.

Ask Sale for a description of how he fits in the overall pantheon of White Sox baseball, and his response is much more nuts and bolts basic.

"I'm just a pitcher," said Sale, who looked as if he was ready to humorously buzz a reporter with one of his 98-mph fastballs when manager Robin Ventura's comparison of Sandy Koufax was brought up.

"You guys have all these questions for me like I can read the future and have all the answers," a smiling Sale continued. "I'm a baseball player. I want to go out and play baseball and do the best I can. That's all I've ever done and all I'm ever going to do. All the extra stuff is cool and fine, but I'll stick to being a baseball player."

That's fine with the White Sox, who improved to 2-4 behind Sale's stellar performance. He struck out eight and walked one, while throwing 72 of his pitches for strikes. He didn't rely on his wipeout slider too often this game, but always seemed to have a little extra to reach back and grab during the few trouble spots.

Hence, the White Sox manager's comparison to Koufax, the Hall of Famer. If Sale has no interest in placing himself among the game's elite, then allow his teammates to handle that task, or at least underscore his importance.

Beckham's two-run homer

"Yeah, he was awesome. He was lights-out," said White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham, whose eighth-inning homer locked down the victory. "Clearly a leader and a guy we need to have on the hill every five days. It was good to have him back."

"Any time you have a guy like Chris Sale, the offense is like, 'Let's push a couple across today and it's going to be enough to hold up,'" reliever Zach Duke said. "It takes pressure off of everybody and really just allows everyone to settle in and do what they know they can do."

After his first victory Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, Sale was asked about liking the new bullpen alignment and if things seem set up well behind him. Sale once again shook his head with a smile, pointing out, "I'm not a coach."

No, he's a pitcher, one of the game's best, whether he likes to talk about it or not.

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.