Sale rejoins team with tough-luck loss

Ace lefty tosses 6 solid innings in return from suspension

Sale rejoins team with tough-luck loss

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale was a pitcher, make that a pretty good pitcher, Thursday night during a 3-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

If the five-time All-Star has his way, the mound is where the focus will remain for the remainder of the 2016 season.

Sale returned from a five-game suspension to pitch the finale of the Crosstown Cup series, a suspension given Saturday for violating team rules, insubordination and destroying team equipment. That equipment, of course, was the 1976 throwback jerseys that he felt impeded performance.

But after losing for the fourth time against 14 victories, Sale looked more toward the future than past transgressions.

"It is what it is. I know that's very cliche to say, but you move on," said Sale, sitting in the visitors' dugout and surrounded by media following his first outing since July 18. "You move forward, and the main focus from this point forward is winning ballgames.

"This is what I signed up to do, play baseball. It felt incredible. It was nice to get back out there and pitch again."

The White Sox staked Sale to a 1-0 lead on Melky Cabrera's run-scoring double in the first, but Sale gave that back in the bottom half of the inning on a walk to Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant's double. Sale admitted to knocking the rust off early and credited catcher Dioner Navarro for getting him through the evening.

Stuff-wise, one of the game's best pitchers has been better. Sale was still good enough to yield two runs on six hits over six innings, striking out four and walking three.

"He definitely pitched well enough to win a game," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

"I thought he was there," Navarro said. "He was painting, throwing the ball to the corners. Probably wasn't throwing as hard as he normally does. He gave us a great outing. We just weren't able to score any runs for him."

When Sale arrived at Wrigley with a number of his teammates around 4:45 p.m., it looked like business as usual. Cabrera embraced him in a bear hug and Sale went around patting teammates on the back and talking to them as if he was never gone.

Nonetheless, Sale had been gone. He left the bullpen to cover for him on Saturday, something the intense competitor doesn't approve of doing even when he does make the start.

Any sort of message to teammates, Ventura or the coaching staff will wait until this weekend for a series in Minnesota. Sale wanted to keep Thursday as close to a normal start day as possible.

Though Sale didn't address the specifics of Saturday's incident, he reiterated a point made to MLB.com Monday concerning staying and winning with the White Sox. 

"I'm a pitcher," Sale said. "I'm called upon every fifth day, and when I can't go out there for my guys and the fans, it gets to me. I felt like I was out on an island, really. Seven o'clock rolls around and I usually know what's going on. Sitting at the house [stinks]."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. 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.