Gordon Beckham is getting restless.
“I’m just looking forward to playing,” said the White Sox second baseman, anticipating his fourth Opening Day with the team. “I’m bored. I’m looking forward to the season to go. It seems like we’ve been spinning our wheels for a while now.”
Pitcher Chris Sale’s wheels have been spinning in his head waiting for the season to start, trying to calm his nerves and quell his excitement before taking the mound as the team’s Opening Day starter, a huge honor for him.
“I was very excited for this,” Sale said. “It’s kind of nerve-racking at times with everything going on with all of this excitement and hoopla, but I’m very proud and honored to be the guy to start Opening Day.”
“He’s very good,” Beckham said of Sale. “He has a lot of talent and a lot of good stuff, so we believe in him and we’re happy he gets that honor ... we’re very happy he’s going to be out there.”
The 6-foot-6 left-hander will have quite a cheering section among the announced sell-out crowd as his in-laws, parents, wife and son will be in the ballpark to watch the Sox’s ace.
Sale, who celebrated his 24th birthday Saturday, is the team’s youngest player and will make his first Opening Day start against the Royals, a team the Sox lost to 12 times last season.
Sale couldn’t think of a better team to open the season against.
“[The Royals] are probably the first team I want to see,” Sale said. “We had our battles with them last year and you always want to start out on the right foot, especially with an in-division rival.
“You get them right out of the gate and it’ll be good to set the tone.”
Sox manager Robin Ventura has noticed that Sale’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on both the younger players as well as the many veterans in the clubhouse.
“He’s very excited about [today], and he should be. He’s earned it,” Ventura said.
“I’m very excited for him, and his kind of excitement is contagious for a lot of guys who have been around the game a long time and just his boyish enthusiasm that he has for an opening day start,” Ventura said.
It was last season that Sale, whom the Sox stretched out into a starter, emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball, with his 17-win season that earning him a sixth-place finish in the American League Cy Young award voting.
As Sale enters his second full season as a starting pitcher, he takes with him a better understanding of how to take care of his body. He will be called upon with more regularity to pitch every fifth game.
“Every pitcher strives to be the pitcher that is able to go out there and have them rely on you,” Sale said, “and not have to hold back with innings limits or pitch-count limits but just go out there and be the pitcher that I am every fifth day.”
Last year the Sox kept a close watch on the young pitcher’s innings count to protect his arm, but this year they will loosen the reins a bit and treat him like any other pitcher on the staff.
“At some point, you’re going to have to do that for him,” said Ventura of giving Sale more freedom in regard to an innings limit.
“But again, we’re going to go by how he feels just like every other guy. I don’t think we have that same feeling that we had last year, I know I don’t as far as his innings go.”