Sale pumped for first Opening Day road call

Sale pumped for first Opening Day road call

SAN DIEGO -- Chris Sale spoke this Spring Training of a desire to pitch in meaningful postseason games.

Those October trips to the mound will have to wait for now. But on Monday night at 9:05 CT in Oakland, the White Sox ace gets to pitch in what he believes as the closest he's ever been to a playoff atmosphere with a third career Opening Day start.

This is Sale's first Opening Day road start.

"Just the energy, it's the first day," said Sale on why he enjoys the season-opening atmosphere. "It's like the first day of school.

"Everybody loves the first day of school, and everybody loves the first day of most things. It's exciting. The fans are really into it. Us as players, we really enjoy it. It's a great day as a whole."

Sale started Game 1 at home in 2013 and '14, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals in '13 and following up that effort by allowing three runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Twins in '14. That 2-0 Opening Day mark held steady in '15, as he missed Spring Training and the season's outset due to a right foot injury.

Having their leader from the beginning boosts a White Sox team with serious sights on the American League Central title. Having a pitcher of Sale's ilk boosts the entire rotation.

"It's huge," said White Sox catcher Alex Avila, who caught Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price in Detroit. "I know there's a lot of teams that try to build around a rotation without that kind of No. 1 guy. But you need that type of guy.

"When you have a guy like him, there's a feeling when everybody goes out there that you have a really good chance to win that game. No matter how the team has been playing recently, when he's out there, you've got a shot. Usually, he's facing the other team's No. 1 as well, so you like those matchups as a team."

There was a Sale/Clayton Kershaw Cactus League matchup on March 19 during which players who weren't in the game still stayed around Camelback Ranch to watch. It's a similar high-end pitchers' battle in Oakland on Monday, with Sonny Gray getting the call for the A's.

"We've got a chance at a two-hour game," White Sox starter John Danks said. "That's no disrespect to anyone trying to hit. Those guys are really good. Opening Day gets marquee matchups across the board, but it won't be any better than that one."

"It certainly will be a pleasure to watch Chris make another Opening Day start," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's good to feel you're going to enter the season with the group you want and not the group you're necessarily forced into taking with you due to injury."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.