OAKLAND -- White Sox ace Chris Sale is scheduled to return to the mound Thursday for his first rehab start since going on the 15-day disabled list with a left flexor muscle strain in his elbow. Manager Robin Ventura said Sale is slated to throw a "short one" for Triple-A Charlotte before the team plots out his next move.
"We'll reassess that and see how he's feeling after that," Ventura said.
Big things are expected from the 25-year-old southpaw this season and he flashed his ability in his first four starts, the last of which came on April 17. Sale has a 3-0 record, 2.30 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in four starts this year, throwing at least 105 pitches each time out.
Chicago has had to do a lot of mixing and matching in recent weeks to put together a rotation without Sale and rehabbing righty Felipe Paulino (rotator cuff inflammation). The club has recently promoted Andre Rienzo (3-0, 4.56 ERA) and Scott Carroll (1-2, 3.63 ERA) from Charlotte while claiming Hector Noesi (0-2. 4.50 ERA) off waivers from the Texas Rangers.
Garcia gets start as Ventura seeks spark
OAKLAND -- After his team's slow offensive afternoon in Sunday's 5-1 loss to the D-backs, White Sox manager Robin Ventura hinted he might be making some lineup changes in an effort to spark his club.
For Monday's series opener against the A's, switch-hitting Leury Garcia received his first start of the year as the leadoff man against Oakland righty Jesse Chavez.
"He can make stuff happen and that's just part of having him up there," Ventura said. "Hopefully he can get something going, steal some bases and kind of create situations that other guys can't."
Garcia earned the starting nod in center field, where he only played one inning this year entering Monday's contest. Ventura said he wants to get more at-bats from the 23-year-old, even if it means moving some players around in the outfield and benching Moses Sierra, who has batted .364 (8-for-22) in his first six contests with Chicago.
Sierra was picked up off waivers from the Blue Jays on May 3, the same day center fielder Adam Eaton (strained right hamstring) was placed on the 15-day disabled list. After going 4-for-4 with a double against the Cubs on May 6, Sierra started the next five games in right field.
"He's athletic," Ventura said of Sierra. "We got him over here and we're hurting when things are going down and you're trying to find someone. His first game, I think he had four hits or something like that. He's filled in and done a good job."
Abreu faces off vs. fellow Cuban slugger Cespedes
OAKLAND -- Two of the most prolific Cuban sluggers in the game are going head-to-head this week, as Jose Abreu and the White Sox play Yoenis Cespedes and the A's.
Abreu entered the three-game set as the MLB leader in home runs (13) and extra-base hits (25), while ranking second in RBIs (37) and toting a .273/.325/.610 slash line. Though Cespedes isn't putting up such monster numbers (.258/.340/.516, seven homers, 21 RBIs), the reigning Home Run Derby champ remains a dangerous threat in Oakland's lineup.
"We competed in a few home run derbys," Abreu said in Spanish. "I know him very well and we have a good relationship. I'm sure I'll enjoy the opportunity to get together with him."
Abreu and Cespedes were foes in Cuba's Serie Nacional before defecting and coming to the United States, and the two players have formed a friendship. They're just two of the top Cuban players to emerge out of the country in recent years, along with others like Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
"I don't only feel happy for him, but for every Cuban ballplayer that plays in the Majors," Abreu said. "This is the best baseball in the world. I have a great deal of admiration for all them, and the most important thing is to stay healthy and keep working hard to have success. … I'm proud to add myself to that list now."
Upon hearing about Fernandez's elbow injury on Monday, which landed him on the Miami disabled list, Abreu said he's confident that the talented right-hander will work hard to come back strong.
"He's an incredible pitcher, I admire him a lot," Abreu said.
As for his own ankle injury which popped up in recent days, Abreu said it was more of a foot issue. Because he has flat feet, Abreu was issued special soles for his shoes during Spring Training, but they actually gave him more discomfort. Still, Abreu said he doesn't want to take any days off.
"I keep working hard through it because in the Majors you need to play every day," Abreu said, "because if you don't play every day, you lose your rhythm."
Ventura seeks urgency after 'flat' baseball
OAKLAND -- A day after his team looked hapless in a 5-1 loss, manager Robin Ventura repeatedly used the word "flat" to describe his team's performance.
Considering that offensive sparkplug Adam Eaton (right hamstring strain) and ace Chris Sale (flexor muscle strain) are still on the 15-day disabled list with respective injuries, and outfielder Avisail Garcia (torn labrum) will miss the season, Ventura said his team can't afford to play uninspired ball.
"It was just flat the whole time," Ventura said. "In the position that we're in with as many guys hurt, and the way we're trying to get through this period right now, you just can't come out flat. You don't want to see it happen any time, but I think there's exceptions to it. But right now, you can't play that way."
As good as D-backs starter Chase Anderson looked in giving up one run on two hits over 5 1/3 innings Sunday, Ventura said it was a matter of his team executing.
"It has nothing to do with that," Ventura said. "I can tell the way we are by the way it is in our dugout. I can tell and know what it's like. It's not like I haven't had a day where I felt flat. But you can either give into it or you can try to change it, and I don't think anybody tried to change it."
• Outfielder Adam Eaton (right hamstring strain) joined the team in Oakland to work out before heading out on a scheduled Minor League rehab assignment, as he is hoping to be return from the DL when eligible Sunday.
"He's getting closer and closer to 100 [percent] every day apparently," Ventura said. "He's doing better and I think that's part of it so we can have him out here and see him."
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.