CHICAGO -- A continuously refined changeup clearly improves Chris Sale's standing as a starting pitcher, although it's already a fairly lofty perch for the American League ERA leader and the owner of the third-lowest opponents' average against entering Saturday's start.
But the notion that the changeup is a new pitch to Sale is inaccurate. It just was temporarily shelved when he worked in relief during the past two years.
"That was his best pitch when we saw him as an amateur," said White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann of the changeup for Sale, who was the 13th pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. "His changeup got better each time. It was his second-best pitch."
"I didn't even have a slider in college," said Sale with a laugh. "So that changeup is something we've been working on more than any other pitch in my repertoire."
Sale's work takes place with pitching coach Don Cooper and bullpen coach Juan Nieves between starts, and he employed that changeup on 23 pitches during his complete-game effort against the Mariners on Sunday. He recorded one out with the changeup, but just one changeup was put in play safely.
A well-located fastball and a sharp-breaking slider are still Sale's top two pitches. But the 23-year-old understands the importance of the changeup to his overall well-being as a rotation member.
"Having a third pitch is so big now," said Sale, who still touches 94 or 95 mph with his fastball but doesn't get to 97 or 98 as he would as a reliever. "You can't go out there as a starter and just have two pitches.
"It's something I've been trying to build on and get better. I want to have a third pitch to throw to help me get deeper in games."