By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
April 15, 2010
Chris Sale is no secret anymore, but it wasn’t that long ago when only a few people were aware of the tall left-hander from Lakeland, Fl., who might occasionally pop 90 on the radar gun but otherwise had pedestrian velocity. Over time, Sale became a more mature pitcher and person. He helped himself in the Cape Cod League last summer, where Baseball Beginnings caught up to him for this Q&A. To his credit, Sale hasn’t lost the momentum he established last summer. For Florida Gulf Coast, Sale started the 2010 season 5-0 with a 1.41 ERA. He had 67 strikeouts and 44 hits allowed in 51 innings pitched.
Baseball Beginnings: How do you think you’ve helped yourself in the past few years?
Sale: I think I’ve matured and that’s the main thing. I think I’ve learned the game better. I think I’ve learned how to stay under control better. I’m better at not letting small things bother me, like errors.
Baseball Beginnings: So you’re talking about not getting, basically, mad off on the mound.
Sale: Yeah. I mean, there’s a time and a place for everything.
Baseball Beginnings: Do you think that was enough of a thing where people might have used it as a knock against you?
Sale: A little bit. There was some emotional control on the mound I didn’t have, but the main thing was growing up and getting smarter about the game.
Baseball Beginnings: Did that hurt you coming out of high school?
Sale: I would say it did. I was really young. I didn’t really start throwing hard until my senior year in high school. No one had really even called me. When I got drafted (by the Colorado Rockies in 2007), it caught me by surprise. I had somewhat of an idea, but I didn’t know it would be anywhere within reason.
Baseball Beginnings: Was signing out of high school an option for you?
Sale: It was up and down. For a while I thought about it. In the scheme of things, I just wasn’t ready, mentally or physically, to go play professional ball.
Baseball Beginnings: Describe yourself stuff-wise.
Sale: I throw a fastball, slider and a change-up and I’m working on a curveball. My fastball is my best pitch and my change-up would probably be my best out pitch.
Baseball Beginnings: What other things have improved with you?
Sale: I would say commanding and controlling with velocity. Also, maintaining velocity deeper into a game. In high school, I’d hit 90 and then be 82-84. Even (in 2008) I was a reliever and one pitch would be 91 and the next would be 86, 87, 84 and then maybe 90 again. I was real jumpy. That’s all getting into the weight room, getting the workout going, getting the running in, throwing long toss and building strength overall.
Baseball Beginnings: So (2009) was a big step for you to have 100 strikeouts in 89 innings then.
Sale: It’s a fun stat to look at.
Baseball Beginnings: Do you really care?
Sale: To be honest, no. That’s one thing I do not do. I refuse to look at my stats. I look at them at the end of the season. I don’t want to know what I’m doing. I just want to know I’m pitching well. I don’t want to mess with the Baseball Gods. If you have a low ERA, you go out, it gets in your head because you say you have to keep it low. If you have a high ERA then you have to press and tell yourself you have to get it down.
Baseball Beginnings: Does that go along with mental maturity?
Sale: Yes, because it’s the job that’s important. You have to go out and do what you have to do. If you have a bunch of strikeouts, you’re going to try to strike everyone out, and that’s going to draw a lot of walks. The main thing I focus on is throwing strikes and pounding the zone.
Baseball Beginnings: Describe yourself as a competitor.
Sale: I always want to match myself up against the best guys I can throw against. I want to see where I stand. If I go out and pitch to all these guys from the ACC, SEC and the Pac-10 and I get shelled, I know where I stand up. If I go out and pitch well then it’s a confidence builder. You want to pitch well everywhere you go, if it’s a Friday night start or a Summer ball game. Summer ball is just as important as your Friday start. Fall is important. People can say, ‘It’s just Fall,’ but that’s where your role gets set. If it’s just the Fall and you don’t perform, you’re behind. You have to treat every start the same no matter when or where it is.