Chris Sale apparently pitches quite well with a little extra rest.
In fact, it was five weeks between his start on April 17 and his return to the mound May 22 against the Yankees. Sale spent the interim on the disabled list with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm, but aftereffects of the injury did not appear to linger.
Over six innings and 86 pitches, Sale was nearly perfect. He allowed one hit to Zoilo Amonte on 1-1 fastball with two outs in the sixth that ended his stretch of 17 straight retired.
"He was fantastic tonight," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said on Thursday. "He was probably as sharp as we've seen him."
Sale certainly wasn't going to throw nine innings during his first start back, though. In fact, he was going to be done after the sixth regardless of the situation, but the ace figures to have a longer leash in his second post-injury start -- just his sixth in 2014.
Sale's last three starts, including a lone rehab appearance for Triple-A Charlotte, have seen the left-hander allow just three hits in 17 innings while walking five and striking out 31.
His fastball topped out at 96 mph in the first inning of his last start, per MLB.com Gameday, but still was hitting 95 in the sixth. Sale struck out the side in the first and in the third and added two more strikeouts in the fourth, fanning five in a row.
"I don't think I've ever been more excited to give up a hit in my life," Sale said after his last start. "I knew I was done after that sixth, and Robin said the same thing. He goes, 'You picked a bad night to do something like that.'"
His 12th game of 10 strikeouts or more tied Alex Fernandez for fourth most in franchise history in this category. Fernandez accomplished this feat in 197 starts, while Thursday night marked Sale's 64th.
Opposite Sale on Tuesday night, the Indians will turn to struggling ace Justin Masterson, who has allowed 17 runs and issued 11 walks across his previous three starts.
Last time out, Masterson held the Orioles scoreless through five innings before the the wheels came off in the sixth, when he allowed five two-out runs. The Tribe still managed to eke out a 13-inning win, but the right-hander finished with five earned runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I think when Masty's going good, there's always a part during the game when maybe he loses his two-seam for a few pitches. The quicker he reels it in, he limits damage and just goes about his business," Indians manager Terry Francona said before his last start.
The good news for Masterson is that his last time on the hill against the White Sox was arguably his best of the season: 7 1/3 shutout innings that produced just four hits and a walk. However, he also allowed five earned over 4 2/3 frames against them on April 12.
Indians: Tito wants Bourn to be himself
Michael Bourn is regarded around the league as a reliable leadoff hitter, even though he may not see as many pitches as a typical leadoff man. Entering this week's series with the White Sox, he had walked at a 6.1 percent clip on the year and just 8.4 percent of the time over his career.
But that doesn't bother Francona. All Cleveland's skipper wants to see out of Bourn is what he does best: hit for solid contact.
"It's very difficult to change guys' approach and probably unfair," Francona said. "So, Bourny is a guy that, for the most part, has to hit his way on. He's never going to be a big walker That's just the way he is. If you try to get him to do that, you would certainly take away his ability to hit. So, when he's getting hits, we're a different team."
Bourn, who missed half of April with a strained left hamstring, is hitting .284 with a .325 on-base percentage.
"And the weather's warming up. I think he gets more confidence in his legs and he'll be more of a disruptor in the game, too, which will be real. That's a big part of what he can do, too," Francona said.
White Sox: Semien prepared despite part-time role
Since May 7, Marcus Semien has made just five starts, including Monday's series opener against the Indians. But even with 17 plate appearances during that stretch, Semien hasn't changed how he prepares at the plate or in the field.
"Well, I do the same thing every day," Semien said. "I take ground balls at multiple positions, I hit [batting practice] the same every day. I hit in the cage. I keep the same routine, but when you don't know exactly what position you will be in certain days, you have to make sure you take [ground balls] at all of them."
Semien hasn't really had to adjust from playing every day to playing part time, or moving between third and second, because his intense preparation habits don't change, either.
"I'm the same every day," said Semien. "No matter if I'm in the lineup like I was earlier in the year every day, or, you know, how it is right now. I'm happy to fill in if guys aren't feeling great or if guys need a day. I'm ready."
• The Tribe took two of three against the White Sox earlier this month, outscoring them 14-5 in the two wins.
• White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu put himself through a low-intensity workout on Monday. The rookie sensation has been on the disabled list since May 18 and can be activated as early as June 2.
• Ventura gave Paul Konerko the day off on Monday but expects the veteran to be back in the lineup Tuesday night. The 38-year-old has only four hits in his last 35 at-bats.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.