Sale returns to mound, focused on season

White Sox ace allows two runs in 5 1/3 innings in Cactus debut

Sale returns to mound, focused on season

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Leaving the Minor League fields and this week's clubhouse turmoil behind him, Chris Sale stepped on the stadium mound at Camelback Ranch on Saturday afternoon and did what he'd been waiting all spring to do. He pitched in a Cactus League game.

"There's a big difference between getting out on the big field and there's a crowd there and music playing, atmosphere," the White Sox ace said after his outing in a 4-2 over the Dodgers. "I was prepared for it. I was jacked up for it."

With the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw on the other side, Sale was strong through 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out three. The lanky left-hander threw 85 pitches and is very much on track to be at full tilt for Opening Day.

Sale also picked off a runner, just as he did in a "B" game earlier in the week, so the work he has been doing this spring on that paid off again. Mostly, however, the focus was on getting in a groove, establishing command with his pitches and staying strong physically.

"My body feels great, my arm feels great," said Sale, who missed all of Spring Training last year with a foot fracture. "That's half the battle while we're down here. Trust me, I know being injured is not fun in Spring Training. So everything is rolling, everything is clicking and we're going out to try and win some games."

Sale said that is the team's focus overall following a tumultuous week in the White Sox clubhouse involving Adam LaRoche's decision to retire over a dispute about his son's presence in the clubhouse. Sale jumped into that fray with both feet, first in a team meeting Tuesday and later in comments to the media.

But on Saturday, he was prepared to leave that in the past, and he showed on the field that he has his mind on the job at hand.

"I'm here to play games and be ready for the season and get ready for the season," Sale said. "I think collectively as a group we're doing that and when day one comes we're going to be just as good as anyone.

"From yesterday, we're showing up to play baseball. I don't think there's anything else to talk about. We have a job to do and I think going forward, moving forward, that's what we're here for."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.