White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper watched Chris Sale make his debut with the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night.
It wasn’t easy seeing him in another uniform.
“I did see Sale a little bit,” Cooper said Thursday. “And it’s hard to watch. It’s actually hard to watch.”
Cooper, who had Sale under his wing since the Sox drafted him in the first round in 2010, liked to say Sale made him look better as a pitching coach. He has called the left-hander the most talented pitcher he has coached.
Sale was traded for four prospects in December, and after his first outing at Fenway Park, there were no regrets in Boston. The five-time All-Star pitched seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball, walking one and striking out seven Pittsburgh Pirates. The Red Sox broke a scoreless tie and won 3-0 in the 12th inning on catcher Sandy Leon’s home run over the Green Monster.
“He’s still good,” Cooper said. “I did an interview with somebody from the Boston papers and they were asking me ‘do you think he’s going to be OK in Boston.’ I said if his fastball is still there, his changeup is still there and his breaking ball, I think he’ll fit in nicely. And he did really good.
“But it actually was a little difficult to watch.”
Cooper said he hasn’t talked to Sale since spring training.
“It’s hard because he’s in the East and we are busy doing our thing and he’s busy doing his thing,” Cooper said. “It was the same way with [Mark] Buehrle and anybody that leaves. There are a lot of guys who leave over the years.”
Cooper was asked if seeing Sale at his best made it all the more difficult.
“No it’s not. It wouldn’t be easier to watch if he was getting whacked,” he said. “I’m not pulling for that for him. I’m pulling for him to do well. What’s hard to watch is him doing it in a Boston uniform. It happens. It happened before with other guys, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it in a game. You know, it was just hard. It was just hard to watch.”
Sale has expressed his excitement over pitching for a contender with a legitimate chance to contend. The Sox couldn’t contend with him and Jose Quintana in their rotation, so they chose to unload him and build for the future.
“I felt good, I felt confident,” Sale told reporters after the game. “I felt like I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. Not only that but ahead in the count, behind in the count, offspeed stuff. Credit goes to Sandy though. He was the one calling the pitches, I was just the one throwing them. When you can have confidence in the guy behind the plate like that, it’s huge.”
While the Red Sox are built to contend, the White Sox are not expected to, especially with Sale gone from a team that was 78-84 last season.
“The guys we ended up getting in return are significant returns,” manager Rick Renteria said Thursday. “Obviously they’re not in the big leagues right now and everybody always talks about you’re trading out an established, solid, All-Star major leaguer. For us, the hope is the guys we get in return are significant and they’re going to impact us in a big way here in the near future.”
The Sox got second baseman Yoan Moncada, right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz and center fielder Luis Basabe for Sale.
Moncada, a consensus top three prospect in all of baseball, is at AAA Charlotte, where the Knights were set to open their season Thursday night. Kopech is at AA Birmingham.