Chris Sale spent the offseason training in Florida at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University. Close to family and friends, he was in his comfort zone.
Sale received a regular regimen from Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
"I was on and off the phone with Coop once a week," the 21-year-old Sale said. "He was telling me what to do each week and I'd call him at the end of each week, tell him how it went, and get another week's worth of specifics."
Unsure whether he'd be in the rotation or bullpen this season, Sale was told to prepare as a starter. That allowed him to work on all of his pitches and stay in his normal routine.
But when spring training opened, general manager Kenny Williams said Sale wasn't in contention to be the No. 5 starter should Jake Peavy not be ready when the season starts. Now Sale hopes to be Chicago's closer.
"It's a relief to know what exact specific role I'm pursuing this year," Sale said. "They know me better than I do. They've done this before."
Sale went 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 103 innings in college ball last year. He was drafted 13th overall by the White Sox in June, signed for a $1,656,000 bonus and made his major league debut in August.
Sale had a 1.93 ERA for the White Sox with four saves and 32 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings.
"This has been a whirlwind year for me. I couldn't have asked to be in a better situation," he said. "It's easy for me to go out there and do my job when I know everyone behind me believes in me and supports me."
Matt Thornton also is competing for the closer's role.
"It's going to be tough to get that job, but I'm looking forward to working for it," Sale said. "The adrenaline rush closing out ballgames is unbelievable. You go out there and get the job done, we shake hands and go home. Or you're walking off the mound, disappointed. I'm looking forward to shaking some hands this year."