(MCT) GLENDALE, Ariz. _ Start late, finish stronger?
That's the script that pitching coach Don Cooper has planned this spring for his starting rotation as well as left-handed reliever Matt Thornton as the White Sox try to preserve their arm strength and avoid a repeat of last September's collapse.
Prized left-hander Chris Sale will make his exhibition debut March 1 _ six days after the Sox's spring opener against the Dodgers. Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd will follow on consecutive days.
This is essentially the same schedule the Sox would have if the World Baseball Classic didn't affect this spring training, but Cooper has instilled some safeguards for several reasons.
Sale and Thornton, for instance, are the lone Sox pitchers in camp receiving an extra day of rest between bullpen sessions. Sale increased his innings total from 71 in 2011 to 192 last season but faded late. Thornton has made at least 61 appearances in each of the last seven seasons, and he will make his spring debut later in March.
"I don't need 40 innings down here, eight starts," Cooper said of the starters' spring schedules. John Danks reported he is making progress from left shoulder surgery, but he won't throw off a mound in front of Sox coaches until Thursday.
"There are great reports on him," general manager Rick Hahn said. "But it's one of those things where being here this early and getting ready for the season, you want to have patience with him and hold him back a little bit.
"Even in talking to him, he's ready to go," Hahn said of Danks, who anticipates being ready for the start of the season. "And that's part of working as hard as he has been working throughout the offseason to get a lot of throwing in and feel strong. You almost want to hold him back when he gets here just to make sure he's healthy at the start of the season."
The planned delay allows Cooper and the Sox staff to take a longer look at prospects Erik Johnson, Scott Snodgress, Andre Rienzo and Simon Castro, as well as left-hander Hector Santiago, who currently is being viewed as more of a reliever but could start if Danks isn't ready.
It's not uncommon for teams not to employ their projected starting players at the start of exhibition play during World Baseball Classic seasons. The Angels didn't require their veteran position players to report to spring training in 2009 until exhibition play started.
In the Sox's case, it's essential to preserve the arms of Sale (4.11 ERA in September) and Quintana (6.75).
Ventura said he would "wait a while" to name an opening day starter, but Peavy endorsed Sale to face the Royals on April 1.
"I say that with no disrespect to anyone on the team, but he's the best arm we have," Peavy said. "He's the most talented guy we have. Your best guy goes opening day."
Said Sale: "That would be crazy. I would be speechless if it came to that. But as I've said before, if anyone deserves that, it's Peavy."