Sox excited about Sale's return to Chicago

Williams: 'If I see him in the hallway, I'm going to give him a hug'

Sox excited about Sale's return to Chicago

CHICAGO -- Ken Williams gave Chris Sale a chance to get to the Majors about two months after Sale became the team's top pick in the 2010 MLB Draft and believed in him as a starter before the '12 season.

The fiery left-hander and the equally competitive White Sox executive vice president also had a couple of heated disagreements during Sale's historically successful seven-year-tenure on the South Side. But there's certainly no lingering tough feelings on Williams' part when Sale returns to Chicago with the Red Sox on Monday, getting the start Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field in a matchup with Jose Quintana.

"As far as I'm concerned, if I see him in the hallway, I'm going to give him a hug," Williams told of Sale. "I understand what's out there. But we used to joke with each other that we understand each other. Chris and I understand each other."

Sale was a five-time All-Star with the White Sox. He was traded at the previous Winter Meetings in a five-player deal that sent infielder Yoan Moncada and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech to Chicago as part of the return.

That move signaled the opening of a White Sox rebuild. Sale will take the mound Tuesday with a Major League-leading 101 strikeouts in 73 innings up against 14 walks. He has a 5-2 record and 2.34 ERA over 10 starts, opposing his friend Quintana, who assumed the ace mantle when Sale was dealt.

Quintana whiffs Drury in the 2nd

"Facing Saler is going to be awesome, big time. A big moment of the season," Quintana said. "It's a different feeling, but it's good to face the best left-hander in the league. I'm excited and I think he's excited, too.

"He's the best. He's the best teammate of the pitchers I've had. We have a really good relationship. He's really fun to watch. He's good and he has good stuff. But we're focusing on us. I want to do my job and that's my focus."

Jose Abreu, who will be facing Sale for the first time, has "so much respect" for Sale and called him one of the best teammates he had during his first three years. Pitching coach Don Cooper said it will be good to see Sale, but called him "a handful for any team he faces" and "it will be a handful for us."

In 2012, Sale argued his way back into the rotation during a heated conversation with Williams after briefly being moved to the bullpen over health concerns. He had more pointed comments about Williams after the Spring Training, '16 incident with Adam LaRoche's retirement after the team access for LaRoche's son, Drake, was limited by Williams. The second argument scarred all those good years and great conversations a bit, per Williams, but didn't change the high esteem with which Williams holds Sale.

"With the exception of two days, I thought we had a great relationship," Williams said. "So much so that I would ask him about some things with regards to how he felt things were going and what he thought we should be doing in the future.

"One of my favorite guys," added Williams, who sent Sale a text of appreciation after Sale was traded, and Sale did the same in return. "I remain a Chris Sale fan."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for 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.