The White Sox got some very good news, or at least the type of news that's whispered to national newsbreakers rather than the beats.
In Chicago, the updates remain more directly rooted in how much Sale is throwing rather than feeling. While the latter is good, the former is still limited to games of catch, making a quick rev up back to starting unlikely, at least this week.
Even if Sale rushes back, he'll need to stay healthy to outpace Andre Rienzo in starts from here on out. The odd man out of the rotation in Spring Training is now effectively the No. 3 starter. Completely successful and permanent returns to the rotation from Sale, Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino would be necessary to force Rienzo out, and even that would require perfect health from Jose Quintana and John Danks.
For a season that looked like it might see the Sox turn away from Rienzo as a starting option early on, it's now hard to see a scenario that doesn't ask for 20 more starts from him if he's ready and willing to provide it.
Every time I watch Rienzo, I'm struck by how much he looks like a reliever. Not in the way that Wade Davis looks like a reliever, in that he's awful and shouldn't be allowed to start anymore, but that he's effective in bursts. He takes damage as his command lapses and he starts playing too safe with a mix of 89-91 heat and mediocre sliders that don't really afford him the ability to be conservative, and he looks like a impact player when he's riding high on emotion, snapping 12-6 curveballs and smacking his mitt.
Toss the two together and you get results like Monday's--a stretch where he looks like he's about to get profoundly hammered and an average-or-worse final result that looks admirable for how he weathered his early difficulty. Play Rienzo in bursts and the latter version probably becomes the more familiar one.
But Chris Sale would probably be the greatest closer of all-time playing in short bursts. He doesn't do that because there are more urgent needs for his talents. And so with Rienzo, when starters are dealing with issues like "can't throw a strike," his issues, and where he'd fit on an absolute ideal, World Series-winning team falls by the wayside.
Early returns from Rienzo unsurprisingly show that he's got a lot to figure out. Pitch tracking systems have trouble determining what is what out of his two-seamer/cutter/slider mix, and not in the good way it struggles defining Jake Peavy. When he gets harder cut to it, there are good results. When it's flatter, there are not. The curve is promising but not outstanding, and given how often he throws it for a ball (half the time), it's understandable that he abandons it for stretches.
More consistency with his curve, or more definition and plan with his slider and cutter could provide a step forward for him. If not, he's probably hovering above replacement-level, and still has nearly free reign to work through growing pains for a fairly decent team.