FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chris Sale can be a tough guy to like from the opposing dugout. But when he's on your side?Sale is a super-talented leader who works fast, competes furiously and always looks out for his teammates. Look no further than early in the 2015 season, when he
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chris Sale can be a tough guy to like from the opposing dugout. But when he's on your side?
Sale is a super-talented leader who works fast, competes furiously and always looks out for his teammates. Look no further than early in the 2015 season, when he was suspended for swinging away in a melee and then trying to crash the Royals' clubhouse after Lorenzo Cain tangled with Jeff Samardzija.
Not a night to brag about, but it was vintage Sale.
Sale is the kind of all-business, team-first guy who should be the toast of Boston by the All-Star break. There will be some rough patches in his transition away from the White Sox, the team he represented in the past five -- yes, five -- All-Star Games. But he won't crack, especially not now that he's on a loaded club like the Red Sox.
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Sale is perfectly suited to thrive working every fifth day at Fenway Park, with a mindset of always looking ahead to his next start, not back to his last one.
"I think anybody in baseball would argue that he's well-made to pitch for anyone,'' manager John Farrell said. "We're fortunate in being able to acquire him. I don't think he's too interested in things he has no control over. I don't mean to be cliché about it, but he's driven to do one thing -- that's to have a baseball in his hand and give you everything he's got to win on that day. Winning is the No. 1 important thing for him in uniform.''
Farrell admits he wasn't sure about the complete package after Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski traded four prospects, including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, to the White Sox for Sale.
"I can tell you that the genuineness he shows as a person when he's not on the mound, that's something we didn't know,'' Farrell said. "You hear reports of it, you hear [about his] reputation, but that's been very good. It's pretty clear after a couple outings -- the competitiveness, the intensity with which he goes about his work. And I think more than anything what shines through is -- I'm not going to say he's a perfectionist -- he's extremely driven, has a standard for himself that is greater than anybody else outside the walls.''
Farrell has gotten to know Sale pretty well in the short time since the 27-year-old lefty motored up I-75 from his home in Naples for the start of Spring Training. He summed him up exactly right.
The acquisition of Sale was the perfect move for both the Red Sox and for Sale.
Sale never reached the postseason in seven seasons with the White Sox, but it seems very likely that streak will end this season. He joins reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price to give Boston the most proven talent in any rotation.
Factor in that Sale is a Florida native who lives nearby and went to school at Florida Gulf Coast University, only about eight miles away from JetBlue Park, and the chance to be home for Spring Training makes him even happier about being acquired by the Red Sox.
"This is a place that has winning on its mind, a very winning tradition,'' Sale said. "That's at the top of the list. I get to stay at the house for Spring Training. Boston's a good city. I've really enjoyed my trips to Fenway. I'm looking forward to it quite a bit.''
The Red Sox won 93 games last season before being swept by the Indians in the AL Division Series. It marked the eighth time in 14 years they've gone to the postseason, and they won the World Series three of those years. It's a thrill for Sale to play with a franchise that has accomplished so much.
"Obviously the big factor is being in this uniform, being around these guys who are winners,'' he said. "This was one of the best teams in the league without me last year. They got to the playoffs without me. I just have to do my part and help it out.''
With Price expected to open the season on the disabled list after an elbow injury early in camp, Sale is being slotted into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, behind Porcello. He'll make his first Red Sox start on April 5 against the Pirates.
Sale got an early look against them in Thursday night's 4-3 Red Sox win, needing 74 pitches to get through four innings. He'll be a lot sharper in April than he was this time, as he allowed a thin Bucs lineup to get to him for three runs on seven hits.
Sale praised his teammates for making good defensive plays to limit the damage and accepted responsibility for not covering first base on a grounder that eluded first baseman Mitch Moreland but was grabbed by second baseman Josh Rutledge.
"Ball hit over there, and I don't cover -- stupid mistake on my part," Sale said. "I have to do better than that. No excuse for that.''
Sale was 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA over 1,110 innings for the White Sox. He held opponents to a .224 batting average -- the lowest in franchise history for a pitcher with at least 800 innings since Hall of Famer Ed Walsh retired in 1917 -- and 1,244 strikeouts, for sixth all time.
Sale admits his time with the White Sox feels incomplete, because he never got to experience postseason drama.
"That's what we sign up for, what we're all here for,'' Sale said. "I don't think you're doing yourself or your team any good if you don't have postseason in mind. I've said it 100 million times. Winning is why we're all here. That's what we try to accomplish. If we don't do that, it is frustrating.''
There are no guarantees in baseball, and Sale knows that as well as anyone. He also knows the odds have shifted into his favor with the trade to Boston.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.