Sunday, 24 July 2016

Chris Sale sent home after unexplained, bizarre 'clubhouse incident'

the White Sox traded a Chris Sale start for one from Matt Albers on what morphed into a strange Saturday on the South Side.

The team sent Sale home from U.S. Cellular Field before their game against the Tigers for what general manager Rick Hahn deemed a "clubhouse incident." The team elected to start right-handed reliever Albers in his place.

"Chris Sale has been scratched from tonight's schedule start and sent home from the ballpark," Hahn said in a statement released just before the scheduled 6:10 p.m. start of the game. "The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club."

Ken Rosenthal, an MLB reporter for FOX and an MLB Network insider, tweeted that Sale was unhappy with the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was supposed to wear, saying they were uncomfortable. As a result, Rosenthal reported, Sale cut up the jerseys during batting practice and was "upset that, in his view, PR and jersey sales were more important than winning."

However, 1983 jerseys were hanging in front of players' lockers at roughly 2:30 p.m., 31/2 hours before the game, as is customary procedure. The team didn't take batting practice until after 4 p.m. so it's unclear as to just when Sale would have cut up the '76 jerseys.

In lieu of the '76 collared jerseys, replicas of which were given to the first 20,000 fans in attendance Saturday, the White Sox wore the '83 throwbacks. Those usually are worn during Sunday home games.

Two hours later, the White Sox announced Sale had been sent home.

The White Sox used a relievers strategy with Albers pitching the first two innings of a game that was suspended after eight innings tied 3-3. The game's start was delayed 10 minutes because of rain and for 1 hour, 14 minutes after the second inning and then again after the eighth. It will be resumed at 1:10 p.m. before Sunday's regularly-scheduled game.

With the Aug. 1 trade deadline looming and rumors aplenty, speculation surrounding Sale's absence began circulating on social media late in the afternoon, about 90 minutes before he was scheduled to throw the first pitch.

Some wondered whether the Sox were in the midst of trading Sale, whose name, along with a lot of others, has been mentioned, and opted to hold him out while they tried to complete a deal. But the only bags the left-hander packed this day were for home.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Saturday's game that he was looking forward to Sale's start. He allowed just one hit in eight innings in his previous start and is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA this season.

He was going to try to become the first 15-game winner in baseball, but instead missed a start for the first time this season.

"Any time he goes out there you have a good chance to win, especially the way it has been going," Ventura said.

The way it has been going hasn't been good for the Sox, losers of eight of nine going into Saturday. The Sox also were a season-high four games below .500 and seven games and seven teams behind a wild-card spot. All of that has further fueled speculation that the team might be sellers at the trade deadline.

General manager Rick Hahn said Thursday he was "extremely disappointed" with how the Sox have been playing and said the club was "mired in mediocrity."

He didn't rule out trading anyone and said the Sox were open to "any and all ideas."

Sale and Ventura have talked a lot this season about how much Sale has matured.

Sale, who started the All-Star Game for the American League this year, called himself an "idiot" after he hit himself in the head twice with a baseball during a May 7 game against the Twins after putting his team at a 2-0 disadvantage by hitting Jorge Polanco to force in a run.

"When I get mad I feel like hurting myself," Sale said that night. "I don't get it. That's the immaturity part coming out. I have to get over some things."

Sale was outspoken in blasting team executive vice president Ken Williams during spring training after Williams said Adam LaRoche's son, Drake LaRoche, should be limited in his access to the clubhouse after having a locker and being around for the entire 2015 season.

Sale made headlines last year when, after an April 23 game, he reportedly approached the Royals clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field following his ejection for his role in a brawl between the teams.

"There's really nothing to talk about; it is what it is," Sale said later. "What's done is done. It's all in the past."

Saturday wasn't the first time Sale has exited before a game. The five-time All-Star left before a game near the end of the 2014 season after sharing some heated words with Ventura.

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