CHICAGO -- Chris Sale has thrown 120 pitches in each of his last two starts, matching a season high against the A's and the Mariners while allowing three runs over 17 total innings.
Those two trips to the mound marked the fifth time in Sale's career when he's thrown 240 pitches or more in back-to-back starts. The White Sox ace had an extra day before taking the ball Friday night against the Mariners, but he is scheduled to return on regular rest Wednesday afternoon against Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Detroit despite the extra workload.
"I think he'll stay in there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That has been the biggest thing for him this year. He has been stronger in each of his starts.
"In the past, if he would have thrown this many pitches, you'd sit there and think there's a chance of maybe giving him an extra day and sticking somebody in there, but he has been extremely strong every time he's gone up there in pitch counts. It's a testament to his conditioning and everything he's done, and just being a little smarter about it and understanding what he needs to be able to get through it."
An off-day this past Monday gave Sale and the rest of the rotation extra rest, but the White Sox don't have another off-day until Sept. 8 in the midst of a 10-game homestand. Potential assistance arrives for the rotation starting Thursday in Minnesota when rosters expand to 40.
The White Sox sent Carson Fulmer back to Triple-A Charlotte to stretch out for big league September starts. Miguel Gonzalez is getting closer to returning from a right groin strain, throwing a simulated game Saturday, and Anthony Ranaudo currently has Gonzalez's rotation spot.
Ventura said the team hasn't discussed having a six-man rotation for the final month. But he and pitching coach Don Cooper are considering how the guys line up.
"I know those guys will be in there at some point to get their starts," Ventura said. "How we do it when they're in there, we haven't really nailed that down. It's an open dialogue at this point of being able to figure out the right spot to get them back in there."
Along with the training program Sale faithfully follows for his arm and his body, he has employed the much-discussed early contact plan for the 2016 season. That plan also manifests itself in not going full bore with every pitch. He has averaged 108 pitches per start this season, compared to a little over 107 in '15, but has felt and looked strong down the stretch.
"Last night, they chipped at him a little bit, but his innings were pretty quick. It wasn't the bases-loaded, having to strike three guys out situations," said Ventura of Sale's 14-strikeout loss. "He has had some where it has been a little bit of a tightrope for him to get through it.
"Exertion-wise, there are some innings where it takes a little bit more to get through it and get out of that inning. Last night, he was as smooth and as easygoing as he's been in a while."