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White Sox’ Chris Sale thrilled to start Opening Day

Chris Sale

Chris Sale

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — At 23, Chris Sale seems mature beyond his years. That said, an Opening Day start at U.S. Cellular Field will make him feel like a “kid in a candy shop.’’

“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be awesome,’’ said Sale, a day after manager Robin Ventura said the All-Star left-hander would make his first Opening Day start. “My knees are shaking just thinking about it. You know the Cell is going to be electric and the fans will be screaming, going nuts.’’

The Sox open against American League Central rival Kansas City on April 1. Sale at first tried to downplay the significance of the moment, but he couldn’t. He was fourth in the rotation last season, his first as a starter, and recalls being caught up in it even as a spectator.

“I’m definitely going to have to collect myself, that’s for sure,’’ he said. “Stay focused and take a lot of deep breaths. Everyone’s excited, the fans are going nuts. And being a part of that now could be overwhelming. I’m going to do everything I can to collect my thoughts and stand on an even plane.”

Ventura told Sale on Friday, a week after Sale signed a $32.5 million contract extension. Things are moving fast for him.

“I called my dad the other day and said, ‘When am I going to wake up? When’s the wake-up call coming?’ It’s a lot to take in, but I’m certainly appreciative of everything.
I know what’s gone on doesn’t happen to a lot of people, so I’ve noticed that and taken that in. I’m trying to appreciate this and show that I appreciate it.”

Jake Peavy will likely start the second game on April 3. Peavy, who has started on Opening Day before, has endorsed Sale for the nod since SoxFest.

“Like I’ve said all along, he’s our best guy,’’ Peavy said. “We need him to set the tone and the whole staff — John [Danks], Gavin [Floyd] and everybody — is excited to have Chris go out there.

Sale has two more spring starts left. He’ll shoot for 100 pitches during his next outing Wednesday and scale back the pitch count in his final tuneup. Ventura hasn’t mapped out the rotation publicly, but a good bet after Sale would be Peavy, Jose Quintana, Gavin Floyd and John Danks, Hector Santiago or Dylan Axelrod, depending on whether Danks is ready to break camp with the team. Such a rotation would give the Sox a left-righty-lefty sequence all the way through.

The only certainty is that it all starts with Sale, and Peavy is certain once the emotion of the moment passes after the first few pitches, it will become just another game for Sale, who was 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in his first season as a starter.

“Chris will be just fine controlling his emotions,’’ Peavy said.



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