GLENDALE, Ariz. – For White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, it was nice to turn around and see the team’s top outfielders standing behind him.
With center fielder Alejandro De Aza and right fielder Alex Rios back from the World Baseball Classic, the Sox were close to full strength Thursday when they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 8-3.
Sale allowed four hits over seven innings, including two solo home runs. Ryan Braun had an inside-the-parker on a ball that De Aza jumped for at the wall.
Sale threw 75 pitches, and when he was finished, he threw 25 more in the bullpen. He has one more start before Opening Day against the Kansas City Royals on April 1.
“We’re a week or so away, so having Rios and ‘D’ back at camp is good,” Sale said. “They had a blast and told fun stories. It’s nice to have them back and get us in the swing of things.”
Rios hit two doubles and drove in two runs, and De Aza doubled and singled. They faced each other in the WBC championship game Tuesday night in San Francisco, when De Aza and the Dominican Republic topped Rios and Puerto Rico.
Rios, batting third in front of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, doubled his first two times up against Mike Fiers. De Aza hit leadoff and scored two runs.
Jeff Keppinger homered, singled and walked. He is 16 for 31 this spring for the Sox. Gordon Beckham added a home run for the Sox.
Donnie Murphy also homered against Sale, who didn’t seem to mind because no runners were on. The 2012 All-Star walked one and struck out three.
Sale, who dealt with a brief elbow issue last season, said he feels strong this spring.
“So far, so good, knock on wood,” he said. “I feel loose, and I feel like my arm is bouncing back the way I want it to.”
Sox manager Robin Ventura said Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana will likely follow Sale in the rotation. Dylan Axelrod would be next if he gets the nod over Hector Santiago for the fifth spot.