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Sale throws sim game, rehab stint likely next

White Sox ace could return for May 22-25 series against Yankees

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale threw a four-inning simulated game prior to Saturday's scheduled contest between the White Sox and D-backs.

And the reviews for the outing were about as encouraging as they have been since Sale was placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 18 with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm.

"He said he felt great," said Saturday's White Sox interim manager and bench coach Mark Parent. "He felt brand new."

"Today went really well," said Sale, speaking after batting practice. "Very encouraged by the work we got in."

Sale threw off the mound for the third time since his trip to the DL was announced in Detroit on April 22. He tossed approximately 60 pitches, going exclusively with the fastball in the first and fourth innings of the simulated game, and then mixing in the changeup and slider in the second and third.

In that fourth inning, Sale went as hard as he could with the fastball.

"[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] goes, 'I don't want you throwing anything other than fastballs, but I want your max effort,'" said Sale of the fourth inning.

The next step for Sale almost certainly will be an injury rehab assignment, especially with the staff ace having not thrown in a game since his 127-pitch, one-hit effort over seven innings against Boston on April 17. The most likely scenario has Sale pitching Thursday for Triple-A Charlotte in Durham or for Double-A Birmingham in Huntsville before then making one more Minor League start the following Tuesday.

That schedule leaves Sale in line to return against the Yankees at home the weekend of May 22. His bobblehead giveaway just happens to be on the afternoon of May 24.

"Yeah, that's the one he's looking at right now," said Parent of the Yankees series. "It's up to [general manager Rick Hahn] and [manager Robin Ventura] and those guys, and [head athletic trainer Herm Schneider]. But you know how Sale is.

"He's impatient and he feels good. Personally for me, just for me, I'd like to see him pitch up here for us, but the smart decisions come from Rick and those guys."

This plan certainly stands subject to change, with Sale figuring he'll meet with Ventura, Hahn, Cooper and Schneider in the next two days to map out the final leg of this unwanted journey. Of course, if Sale had his choice, he would be back with the White Sox as soon as possible.

"We are going to have to talk about this, but I would think that the next step would be a rehab start," Sale said. "I would just assume in five days go pitch against whoever we play against in five days. But that's not quite how it works. I'm not sure what we are going to do, but whatever they got for me, I'm game for whatever.

"Obviously this took longer than I expected and longer than I think anybody else expected. At the same time, you'd rather take the time now and be able to get it over with and done with than have it linger.

"It's almost like getting your car fixed," said Sale, smiling. "Do you want to leave it in the shop for a few more days and have it done and ready to go or do you want to have to take it back once a month or every couple of weeks and have that linger around? So I think when we're done with this we'll be ready to go."

Caution has been the watchword for the White Sox throughout this entire Sale rehab process. If Sale is a car in the aforementioned description, then he is the White Sox prized high-end Ferrari that they want to run smoothly for years to come.

When Sale felt the soreness in Detroit, he immediately had a MRI, which showed no structural damage, putting Sale at ease.

"There is nothing -- ligaments, tendons -- nothing like that so there was never a doubt in my mind," Sale said. "But it was a little slower process than I anticipated."

A timetable has never been set for Sale's return, with the club viewing his work on a day-to-day basis and not forcing or rushing the situation. That patience appears about ready to pay dividends.

"They have taken all of their selfishness away," said Sale of the White Sox. "You obviously would want all your players out there playing, but in this particular scenario they are really taking their time with it.

"I'm back there with Herm and [assistant athletic trainer] Brian Ball every single day. I've actually started calling the training room 'the dungeon' because I feel like I'm locked in there half the day. It's obviously like a level of respect for me to feel comfortable telling them what's going on and them having absolutely no rush in this.

"Every time I've talked to everybody, there's not a timetable," Sale said. "This is going all on feel and that makes me feel a lot more comfortable going through this process."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.
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