CHICAGO -- Rylan Sale, the seven-year-old son of Chris Sale, had an important question for his father before he returned to Chicago with the Red Sox on Monday.
"He asked me if I was going to be nervous playing here," said a relaxed Sale, as he met with the media in the Guaranteed Rate Field Conference and Learning Center before the start of this three-game series.
"A little bit of me will be, but I think I'm more looking forward to this opportunity than any other emotion, just because it's fun," Sale continued. "I'm playing against my friends. It might be hard to not smile out there on the mound at a couple of them."
It only took Sale parts of seven seasons, from 2010-16, to emerge as one of the White Sox all-time great hurlers. He holds the single-season franchise strikeout mark with 274 in '15 and finished with a 74-50 record, a 3.00 ERA, 12 saves, 14 complete games and 1,244 strikeouts and 260 walks over 1,110 innings.
That tenure, which began when Sale joined the White Sox bullpen two months after he was taken 13th overall in the 2010 Draft, came to an end in December when Sale was traded to Boston for a four-player return including infielder Yoan Moncada and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech. That move officially began the White Sox rebuild, and while Sale talked numerous times about not only wanting to stay on the South Side but win with the team, he understood the trade.
Sale also has thrived in his new environment atop the Red Sox rotation.
"There's nothing like pitching at Fenway Park, and I've even said that as a visiting player," Sale said. "The energy that place creates, the vibe that is buzzing there 24/7, is fun. There's pros and cons to everything, and so far I've thoroughly enjoyed it. Boston has been nothing but great to me since the moment I got over there."
"It's more about the person -- the true competitor that he is, the great teammate that he has shown [to be] since he has come into our uniform," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's about one thing, and that's about winning. We're grateful he's in our uniform."
The great teammate sentiment mentioned by Farrell was echoed by plenty of Sale's White Sox cohorts, who applauded Sale from the home dugout after a video montage honoring Sale ran on the center-field scoreboard before the bottom of the first. Sale tipped his cap while pointing to the fans and the opposing dugout during a standing ovation.
"He was the best teammate I ever played with," White Sox starter Jose Quintana said. "I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball. We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus."
"Tremendous competitor. Good person at heart," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "He left a lot of good memories here."
A few blips existed on Sale's otherwise tremendous White Sox run, but there seems to be no hard feelings on either side of that equation. Sale has no regrets.
"Can't change the past, just try to become better in the future," Sale said. "Appreciative of my time here, the people I met here, the relationships I built, most of the things I did here, too.
"I'm appreciative of everybody involved that got me to this point right here. Without a lot of people in this building, I wouldn't be sitting here right now, that's for sure."
Tuesday's pitching matchup features Sale against Quintana, friends and rotation mates from 2012-16. The fans who loved Sale in Chicago might have a little less love for the Boston southpaw who leads the Majors in strikeouts. But White Sox fans will always hold a special place for Sale.
"I certainly appreciate them being a fan of mine for those years," Sale said. "It's weird: I feel like now that I play for a different team I've run into more [White] Sox fans since being traded. Seriously: 'I'm a White Sox fan.' I'm like, 'If you had just met me a few years ago.'
"But no, they were great to me. They always gave me the benefit of the doubt. They always seemed to be in my corner, which I appreciated. I worked really hard when I was here, and I tried to give them everything I had.
"Obviously, that's all you can basically do in this sport," Sale said. "Two things -- attitude and effort -- they're the only two things you can control. I tried to give them everything I had. I hope they appreciated what I did for them as much as I appreciated what they did for me."