MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Sale has already established himself as the stopper in the White Sox starting rotation. But he's also earning buzz for a much bigger distinction as his dominance has placed him in the thick of the American League Cy Young conversation.
Sale threw six shutout innings in the series opener against the Twins on Friday, helping the White Sox to a 6-0 victory and his 17th win of the season, tied with Jered Weaver for the American League's second-highest total. Tampa Bay's David Price won his 18th on Friday night.
The victory, Sale's 11th win immediately following a White Sox loss, also made him the first White Sox pitcher to win 17 in a season since Gavin Floyd won 17 in 2008. Sale's 2.78 ERA was third in the league entering Saturday.
The numbers are clearly good enough for the 23-year-old to receive consideration.
"He's in there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's just as good as anybody in the league. I don't know how to look at it or anything else, but I know he's as good as anybody in the league."
Judging from Sale's reaction to the possibility, though, winning such an award is one of the last things on his mind.
"It is what it is," Sale said. "I don't pay attention to anything like that. When you start thinking about things like that you get a little selfish and what's really important slips away. I'm here for this team. I'm not trying to win any awards or anything like that. The only award I want is the big shiny trophy at the end."
Dunn back in lineup after missing seven games
MINNEAPOLIS -- Adam Dunn was in the White Sox lineup on Saturday for the first time since Sept. 5.
Manager Robin Ventura started Dunn at first base and slotted him third in the batting order. Dunn took batting practice on Friday for the first time since aggravating a strained right oblique, and all signs pointed to him being ready to return.
"We're going to unleash him today," Ventura said before his club's 5-3 win. "He's been let out of the training room, so we're going to get him in there. It's better for him to stay loose, play first base. He looked good yesterday. That's just one of the things he needed to go through, BP."
Dunn, who went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored, missed the team's past seven games and nine of 12. He is hitting .211 with 38 home runs and 88 RBIs in 134 games -- a year after posting his worst batting average (.159) and the second-lowest home run total of his career (11).
Ventura watched for warning signs of discomfort during Friday's batting practice, primarily to make sure Dunn wasn't brought back too quickly. The White Sox made that mistake earlier this month with Dunn.
"Looking for a reaction when he swings -- if he winces or anything," Ventura said. "Looking back to what it was before, there probably was a sign or two that it wasn't 100 percent. He looks fine though. He didn't have any reservations about swinging."
Check swings and missed swings are two things that Ventura might be a little anxious to see with his slugger, as both can aggravate the injury.
"Regular swings [are] not [a concern]," Ventura said. "But swing and miss -- which he can do. Check swings are probably going to be the biggest thing."
Third to first
The White Sox have won 11 of their last 13 and 21 of 27 against Minnesota. White Sox starting pitchers recorded a 2.20 ERA (10 earned runs over 41 innings) over the past seven games. Alex Rios hit .433 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in the first 16 games against Minnesota this season before going 0-for-4 on Saturday.
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.