DURHAM, N.C. -- Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale said he felt in a good groove during a rehabilitation assignment Friday night with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
Sale struck out 11 batters in four innings in the first game of an International League doubleheader against the Durham Bulls at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
"It felt loose, and I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Sale said. "First-pitch strikes [are] huge. Just trying to find a good pace and keeping it loose."
The only hit off Sale for the Bulls came on Robby Price's infield dribbler, which third baseman Matt Davidson tried unsuccessfully to field barehanded.
It was the left-handed Sale's first rehab appearance since he went on the disabled list April 22 (retroactive to April 18) with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm. He was scheduled to throw no more than 75 pitches.
His 68-pitch performance included 43 strikes. He struck out seven different Bulls.
"I feel ready [to return to the big leagues], but that decision isn't up to me," he said.
"I felt I could rear back and throw it when I needed it to," he added. "This was a step in the right direction as far as building up."
His adrenaline was flowing at a fast clip, he said.
"Not pitching in a month will do that for you," he said.
Sale struck out leadoff batter Ray Olmedo on three pitches. Ten of his 13 first-inning pitches were strikes against the Tampa Bay Rays farm team.
Sale issued a four-pitch walk to Jerry Sands in the second between Wilson Betemit and Vince Belnome going down on called third strikes.
Sands drew the only other walk, the second time recovering from an 0-2 count.
Sale, 25, was 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts with the White Sox before his injury. Outfielder Adam Eaton was also on an injury rehab assignment with Charlotte, going 2-for-4 with the winning RBI single in the seventh inning of Charlotte's 2-1 seven-inning victory. He struck out in the first but singled and stole second in the third before striking out again in the fifth.
Eaton said Sale looked as dominant as usual.
"He's unbelievable; he has so much movement," Eaton said. "He had everything going well."
It was a flashback appearance for Sale. His Triple-A debut in 2010 came in the same ballpark, though that was a bullpen outing.
Charlotte coach Ryan Newman served as acting manager because Joel Skinner was away for a daughter's college graduation.
Bob Sutton is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.