The first-place Chicago White Sox will find it difficult to make the playoffs if their talented young ace Chris Sale is out for an extended period of time.
It was reported Sunday that Sale was suffering from a "dead arm" and will miss his next scheduled start on Wednesday, and possibly more (via Chicago Tribune).
Sale's velocity on his pitches have been noticeably lacking his last few starts. While it's nothing new for a pitcher to experience decreased velocity during a season, it has to be concerning to the White Sox that Sale will miss some starts during a division race.
The 23-year-old Sale is in the starting rotation this season for the first time in his brief career. Sale had made 79 appearances out of the bullpen for the White Sox prior to this season.
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams anticipated the possibility of some of his starters needing some rest. Williams traded Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez to the Minnesota Twins Saturday for left-handed starter Francisco Liriano.
With Sale experiencing his first season as a starting pitcher and having already suffered some arm issues early on this season, along with Jake Peavy enduring his heaviest workload in three years, Williams had to add some pitching depth before Tuesday's trade deadline.
While Jose Quintana has been a great find for the team, posting a 2.58 ERA in 13 games this season, starters Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber have battled inconsistency all season.
Liriano hasn't exactly been a top-flight pitcher either the last two seasons for the Twins. Since 2011, Liriano has a 5.18 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP.
While the White Sox are just taking a short-term approach with the media by saying Sale is missing his next start to rest his tired arm, White Sox fans should be worried that Sale could be suffering from a more serious issue, perhaps one that will keep him on the shelf for weeks.
The White Sox hold a slim lead over the Detroit Tigers, and with a division race heating up, the White Sox will struggle without Sale.
Through Saturday, the White Sox have a team ERA of 4.03, better than the league average. If Sale's innings and earned runs were not included, the White Sox staff's ERA would be at 4.26, well below the league average of 4.08.
Liriano was under the radar of rumored trades the past few weeks, and with his past success he is a big name for Williams to snag. Unfortunately, Liriano's best years may be behind him as he's struggled recently.
If the White Sox lineup experiences an extended slump as they did right after the All-Star break, the current rotation without Sale might not be able to keep the team afloat.
If Sale only misses two starts at most, the team should be able to weather the storm.
While Sale has learned how to pitch through arm issues and not having his best stuff at times, as he did in Friday's 9-5 win over the Texas Rangers, a little rest might be just what he needs for the playoff push.
The White Sox will not make the postseason if Sale is shut down for the duration of the season. Hopefully for the team's sake, Sale is just getting a late-summer breather and will return refreshed and ready to help pitch the White Sox into the playoffs.
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