CHICAGO -- The last time Jack McDowell, who was the 1993 American League Cy Young Award winner, talked with Chris Sale, seemingly a future AL Cy Young Award winner, was in Spring Training about three years ago.
But two of the White Sox greatest pitchers spoke about weight gain, not pitching nuances.
"He had a question about them trying to get him to put on weight and get bigger," said McDowell, speaking at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday as part of the 25th anniversary weekend celebration for the ballpark. "I went through that, being a 6-foot-5, 175-pounder out of college.
"We talked about it and I said, 'Do you feel good?' He said he feels good. 'Do you feel strong? Do you feel normal? Then don't beat it up. It's either going to happen or it's not.' I did try to do that growing up because I bought into the whole, 'Boy, you throw pretty hard, but if you get big and stronger you're going to throw harder.'"
Sale actually is not throwing harder during the 2016 season, but his more efficient lower velocity directed gameplan has been letter perfect through nine starts. His three complete games are the most by a White Sox starter in his first nine starts of a season since McDowell in 1991 (also three). The last Major League pitcher to accomplish the feat was Johnny Cueto in 2014 (three), and the last AL pitcher was Zach Greinke in 2009 (four).
Since 1912 (per Elias/STATS), Sale joins Walter Johnson (1913) and Sal Maglie ('52) as the only pitchers to win their first nine games with an ERA of 1.58 or lower. Sale's .163 opponents average is the second-lowest through nine starts in franchise history, trailing his .152 mark in '14.
McDowell's competitive, sometimes angry mound style has been compared to Sale's, although Sale admits to throwing fewer pitches in anger this season. McDowell joked that he has no problem being mentioned with a 9-0 pitcher.
"Not a guy who's 1-10 copying me," McDowell said with a laugh. "But the greatest thing seeing Chris is he's coming into his own. You guys are finally picking up on it. He's pounding the strike zone. He's going after guys.
"I've told guys forever, hitters don't know what to do when you do that. When you don't pitch so much and try to get them to do things and say, 'Here's my stuff, here it is and I'm going to throw it over the plate.' And they go, 'Ugh.'"
White Sox manager Robin Ventura played with McDowell before managing Sale, and sees leadership qualities in both along with the immense ability.
"Chris, it's been a while. It's been in the works," Ventura said of Sale, who is trying to join McDowell, LaMarr Hoyt (1983) and Early Wynn (1959) as White Sox Cy Young Award winners. "When he first went from the bullpen to starting, he was a young guy on our team. He got a good tutelage from those older veterans.
"Now, he's been able to embrace it and understand it, and feel comfortable with it. [McDowell] didn't have any problem with it."