Tough Sale

Lefty has blossomed into interesting prospect

In 2007, Florida Gulf Coast coach Dave Tollet was looking at an intriguing recruit.

A 6-foot-6 lefthanded pitcher named Chris Sale spent most of his time throwing an unspectacular 82-84 mph at Lakeland (Fla.) High.

But every once in a while, the kid's velocity would shoot up to 88, flashing major-college zip before diving back to the low 80s.

"Chris was a interesting recruit, because you'd see him throw and he'd be anywhere from 82 to 88," Tollet said. "For me he would flash the 88 . . . When he flashed the 88 that just meant for me, that when it all worked, it all worked."

So Tollet brought Sale two-and-a-half hours south to FGCU's campus, and it's all worked  —in a big way.

After spending his first year working primarily out of the bullpen, Sale blew up in his first year in the rotation.

As the Friday starter for the Eagles, he struck out a team-high 104 batters and compiled a 7-4, 2.72 record. Once a rail-thin high school senior that tipped the scales at 155 pounds, Sale bulked up to 184 pounds as a college sophomore and his velocity exploded to 90-95 mph.

"He's really developed," Tollet said. "He's matured, baseball-wise he just keeps getting better and better. I think he gets better every time he steps to the mound and for us as a team that means that when he goes out there on Friday nights, we've got a shot to win."

But the best indicator of his potential might have come in two outings during the regular season. Sale went toe-to-toe with two supplemental round picks in 2009.

First was Lipscomb's Rex Brothers, who Sale beat outright. Sale went eight innings with five hits, one earned run, and fanned eight on 119 pitches to pick up the win. Brothers, who went 34th overall to the Rockies, gave up seven hits and two earned runs in seven innings of work, including nine strikeouts.

Next up was Kennesaw State's Kyle Heckathorn, who went 47th in the 2009 draft. Heckathorn gave up nine hits through six innings, while Sale surrendered only seven hits through 82/3  innings as Florida Gulf Coast won in extra innings.

"Those are pretty good matchups for a sophomore to go out there, and he won them both," Tollet said.

Sale's success has continued even into summer ball with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League.

 Through July 3, Sale led the prestigious Cape Cod League in strikeouts with 30, fanning some of the best collegiate hitters in the nation. He was 2-1, 1.29 through four starts, with an ERA good for seventh in the league.

In fact, Sale opened summer play by pitching 20 consecutive scoreless innings for Yarmouth, and he's only given up four earned runs and five walks thus far.

Mississippi Iron Man

There are rubber-armed guys, and then there is Drew Pomeranz.

The 6-foot-5 lefthander from Mississippi made a name for himself as the rebels' sophomore ace in 2009, but stepped into legend in the postseason.

In the Oxford Regional, Pomeranz tossed a 119-pitch complete game to send the Rebels to a super regional—three days after winning the opening game. He threw again in the super regional barely a week later.

While most pitchers would feel strained to come back on such short rest, Pomeranz was just the opposite. He was downright antsy, even trying to convince his coach to let him  into the Sunday game.

"Certainly what he did in the regional is really, really unusual," Mississippi coach Mike Bianco said. "But he actually asked for the ball on Sunday and said 'I can close if you need me to.'

"And so he was ready and excited and obviously up for the opportunity on Monday to pitch."

In the entire postseason, Pomeranz threw 374 pitches in 24 innings, fanning 36 batters and giving up just three earned runs—in three outings, and on nine days of total rest.

And just a week later, Pomeranz was trying out for USA baseball, seeking a spot on a team with the best collegiate underclassmen in the nation.

Asked whether he was tired coming into the trials or if he had enough rest, Pomeranz simply shrugged.

"A week was plenty," Pomeranz said.

"Honestly, by the end of the season my arm was in such good shape that I didn't even get sore until after the super regional. I wasn't sore at all (at the trials)."

Bianco has noticed Pomeranz's durability, and claims his sophomore's endurance was only helped by his offseason workouts with teammate Scott Bittle, the No. 75 overall selection by the Yankees in 2009.

"He's one that's always felt pretty good after outings," Bianco said of Pomeranz. "Some guys . . . after they pitch need several days. But he's a guy that usually, two days after he pitches on Friday, he can long toss on Sunday and feels pretty good."

By all indications Pomeranz hasn't missed a beat, even in the more controlled world of USA baseball, where pitch counts max out at 85, regardless of the score.

"I feel fine here," Pomeranz said. "They don't overuse us, they're real good about that. They're very pro-like the way they have you on a strict pitch count. It doesn't matter if it's the middle of the inning or what."

 And the lefty hasn't missed a beat with Team USA.

Pomeranz not only powered through the trials, but he also set a team record recently when he struck out 17 batters against Guatemala in just six innings of an early-July exhibition.

His performance was so dominating that, according to Pomeranz, he threw only six offspeed pitches in the outing.

"Honestly I was just moving the fastball in and out," he said. "I wasn't feeling too great, but I was just working the ball in and out, I didn't have to throw too many offspeed pitches. It was just one of those nights."

Part of Pomeranz's success has to be expected against an overmatched Guatemala team getting its first taste of power lefthanded pitching. But team USA coach Rick Jones was quick to point out that Pomeranz's line was impressive regardless of the competition.

"You strike out 17 I don't care who you're pitching against, you better have some pretty good stuff," Jones said. "Obviously they had not seen a power lefty like that, and it was a little overwhelming for them, but he still had to make his pitches and he did."