For White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, it was nice to turn around and see the team's top outfielders standing behind him.
With center fielder Alejandro De Aza and right fielder Alex Rios back from the World Baseball Classic, Chicago was close to full strength when it defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3 Thursday.
Sale allowed four hits over seven innings, including two solo home runs. Ryan Braun had an inside-the-parker on a ball that De Aza jumped for at the wall.
Sale threw 75 pitches and when he was finished, he threw 25 more in the bullpen. He has one more start before opening day against the Kansas City Royals on April 1.
"We're a week or so away, so having Rios and 'D' back at camp is good," Sale said. "They had a blast and told fun stories. It's nice to have them back and get us in the swing of things."
Rios hit two doubles and drove in two runs and De Aza doubled and singled. They faced each other in the WBC championship game in San Francisco on Tuesday night, when De Aza and the Dominican Republic topped Rios and Puerto Rico.
Rios, batting third in front of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, doubled his first two times up against Mike Fiers. De Aza hit leadoff and scored two runs.
"They're ready to go, I guess," manager Robin Ventura said. "They've logged some innings. It's nice just to have them back. You get a little more of a flow of how the lineup would go if that's the way you roll it out."
Jeff Keppinger homered, singled and walked. He is 16 for 31 this spring for the White Sox. Gordon Beckham added a home run for Chicago.
Donnie Murphy also homered against Sale, who didn't seem to mind because no runners were on. The 2012 All-Star walked one and struck out three.
"Regular season, that was close to a complete game right there," Sale said. "Pitch count was down — that's what you shoot for. I'm not going to be as sore the next day and will bounce back a little quicker."
Sale, who dealt with a brief elbow issue last season, said he feels strong this spring.
"So far, so good, knock on wood," he said. "I feel loose, and I feel like my arm is bouncing back the way I want it to."
Fiers wasn't nearly as good as Sale, getting roughed up for seven runs and eight hits over three innings.
"I had no idea where the ball was going," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Fiers' outing. "He's got one more outing, hopefully he looks better. Couldn't command, couldn't throw strikes for anything."
NOTES: Ventura said Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana will likely follow Sale in the rotation. Dylan Axelrod would be fifth if he gets the nod over Hector Santiago for the fifth spot. ... Axelrod, the likely replacement for John Danks in the White Sox rotation while Danks builds up arm strength in minor league games, will start against the Royals on Sunday. ... Roenicke said INF Taylor Green will sit out for at least a few days to recover from a hip injury he sustained Tuesday. ... Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo will get his next-to-last tuneup for opening day when he pitches against the Cubs on Friday. ... White Sox RHP Jesse Crain (strained right adductor) had a setback in a minor league outing Wednesday and looks doubtful to make the opening day roster. Brian Omogrosso or Ramon Troncoso are potential replacements in the White Sox bullpen.