Two years ago, Chris Sale was the 13th pick in the amateur draft; just two months later, he joined the Chicago White Sox and hasn't seen the minor leagues since. Because he's been really, really good.
In college, Sale was a starter. But upon his signing with the White Sox, they turned him into a relief pitcher. Which worked, in the sense that reliefing got him to the majors so quickly. Not to mention his 2.58 ERA over his first two major-league seasons and 94 innings.
But with the departure of free-agent Mark Buehrle last winter, the White Sox had an opening in their rotation.
Chris Sale filled the opening this spring, and filled it well. In five starts, Sale's got a 2.81 ERA and (surprisingly) a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.6) than he'd posted as a reliever. It's hard to imagine a reliever-to-starter conversion going much better than this one.
Except now he's converting back. Spencer Fordin (via MLB.com):
The White Sox have re-evaluated Chris Sale's current role with an eye toward his long-term success. Chicago announced Friday that Sale will be moved out of the rotation and into the closer's role in an effort to lessen his strain and make sure that his left pitching elbow stays healthy.
Now, though, Sale will work as Chicago's closer. The White Sox have decided that Dylan Axelrod will get the first chance to take Sale's vacant rotation slot, which comes up again on Sunday. Hector Santiago, who had been working as the closer, will now pitch in middle relief for Chicago.
As South Side Sox notes, Sale's recently lost a bit of zip on his fastball, and suffered from "a slightly tender elbow area".
Maybe the White Sox are being too careful with Sale, but they're in the best position to know what's best for Sale's oh-so-valuable left elbow. He might be the first starting pitcher in history to take a 2.81 ERA to the bullpen, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the wrong move.