CHICAGO -- The uncertainty regarding Chris Sale's move to the 2012 White Sox starting rotation has nothing to do with his ability to handle -- or quite possibly excel -- with the change.
It's more a question of durability and innings protection for the 22-year-old southpaw, a topic frequently discussed during this weekend's SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. Pitching coach Don Cooper knows a balance needs to be struck between protecting a talented hurler, who has never pitched more than 136 2/3 innings in a season, and handcuffing him.
"We're going to give this kid just enough work experience, let him go," said Cooper, after taking part in a SoxFest seminar about the 2012 state of the team. "And as the season's going, and I don't mean in the first half, as the season goes, we'll continue to assess where he's at. We'll sit and talk about him.
"What's the worst thing that could happen to Chris Sale? He gets hurt. So we're going to do everything in our power not to let that happen. We have control over that to a large degree. How do we have control? Watching the workloads, watching how many sidelines he has.
"I'll keep an eye on that," Cooper said. "We'll make sure -- throwing in between starts, innings and pitches in a game -- how many innings he has as the season goes. It's going to be a continuing assessment. The No. 1 goal for all of our players is stay healthy. If they do stay healthy, then they're going to go out there and do the things we envision them doing."
Even with this uncertainty in terms of a Sale innings ceiling, following his 71 innings in relief last season, there's no denying the southpaw's strong passion to become a starter.
"There's going to be uncertainty in any guy's first year starting in the big leagues because it's a huge challenge," Cooper said. "But he has pitched as a starter his whole career."
"I'm excited to see Sale in particular," White Sox starter John Danks said. "If he can be half of what he was out of the bullpen, we are in pretty good shape."
Cooper lays out bullpen openings
CHICAGO -- Any doubts about Addison Reed breaking camp with the 2012 White Sox were pretty much put to rest by pitching coach Don Cooper on Saturday at SoxFest. Speaking during a seminar at the Palmer House Hilton focused on the 2012 team, Cooper stated that four bullpen spots have been secured: Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Will Ohman and the hard-throwing right-hander.
Reed becomes a veritable lock even with just 7 1/3 Major League innings under his belt during a September call-up last season.
"I don't believe 7 1/3 innings constitutes a lock," Cooper said. "But we love the 7 1/3 innings he did throw. He showed a lot of stuff that we like. No fear. Threw strikes. Good stuff. I also know the things from seeing him in the big leagues that we need to get more consistent.
"What I'm talking about to Addison Reed is to come ready physically and mentally and do what you gotta do in Spring Training and make the team. If he comes and does what we're expecting him to do, I expect him to get on the plane."
Three bullpen spots remain open, with one of those long relief openings going to Zach Stewart, Dylan Axelrod or possibly Hector Santiago. Cooper said that Stewart will work two or three innings at a time during Spring Training and will even get some split-squad starts.
Ventura talks philosophy at Town Hall
CHICAGO -- Saturday's SoxFest Town Hall Meeting featured manager Robin Ventura, bench coach Mark Parent, pitching coach Don Cooper and hitting coach Jeff Manto taking questions at a crowded Red Lacquer Room in the Palmer House Hilton. Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson served as the moderator, with a number of highlights coming from the 45-minute session.
One in particular was Ventura being asked how he would handle potentially benching a struggling veteran, even if he has a big salary. The manager responded that "We'll invite him to sit on the bench," earning a huge ovation from the crowd.
"My belief is I'm not going to treat everybody the same, but I'm going to treat everyone fairly," Ventura said. "Paul Konerko is going to get treated differently than a rookie that just got called up. That's just the way it is. That's the way it's going to operate with me.
"If a guy needs to get a few days off, he's going to get a few days. If he needs the whole season, he'll get the whole season."
Harbaugh could make Spring Training appearance
CHICAGO -- Ken Williams spoke with great pride in the way his son, Kyle, has handled the aftermath of last Sunday's personal misfortune during the 49ers overtime loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. The White Sox general manager also praised the 49ers organization for the "all for one, one for all" culture they created and how they rallied around his son.
That compliment led to an Arizona invite for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
"Jim Harbaugh asked to come out to Spring Training and throw out the first pitch and hang out a little bit and be around baseball because he loves baseball," Williams said. "He has no idea, but he's going to stand up in front of the White Sox and talk about team leadership and togetherness. We need to tap into that a little bit."
Third to first
At Saturday's SoxFest Town Hall Meeting, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper pointed out the staff wants to win for Jerry Reinsdorf because basically the Chairman is the White Sox.
"I want Jerry Reinsdorf to feel about us and the staff that 'These guys are doing the job and giving me what I want,'" Cooper said. "That's the justification. That's what I like to hear back.
"The bottom line is, I want to please Jerry Reinsdorf as our owner, because I know how much this matters to him. I know how much he cares."
Left-handed hurler Scott Olsen did not get a Spring Training invite when he agreed to terms on a Minor League deal with the White Sox this week. But Cooper said Olsen could get a look or two during Cactus League action.
Ventura could not avoid another question about charging the mound after Nolan Ryan hit him with a pitch during an August contest in Texas in 1993. Ventura said it was more about something he had to do for the team at the time and nothing personal.
"It's not like he derailed a promising UFC career," said Ventura with a laugh concerning Ryan's headlock and ensuing flurry of punches on the mound.