- - Thursday, July 28, 2016

Earlier this week, Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale was suspended for five days following an absolutely bizarre locker room incident.

The White Sox and Sale were set to face the Detroit Tigers last Saturday, where they would wear a 1976 throwback uniform as part of a promotion. Instead, the White Sox came out to the field for the National Anthem wearing a 1983 throwback uniform and no Sale.

Why? During batting practice, Sale grabbed a knife and cut up all of the 1976 uniforms, saying the uniforms were too uncomfortable to wear, it would affect his performance and that he was upset that his franchise was more concerned about jersey sales than winning baseball.

As bizarre and toxic as that situation sounds, Sale’s teammates are glad to see one of their top pitchers return to the team, and they are more than happy to welcome him back.

“In (the clubhouse) with open arms,” outfielder Adam Eaton told ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle. “When he pitches, he puts on a good show. I’m sure it won’t be any different when he comes back.”

This season, Sale has a 3.18 ERA and a 3.2 wins above replacement, the 8th-best in the American League in both respective categories. Sale’s 129 strikeouts rank 7th in the American League, and his 14 wins are tied with Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles and Stephen Strasburg as the most in Major League Baseball.

Eaton, who is having a solid season of his own with a .275 batting average, actually credits locker room turmoil as potential sparks in Chicago’s play. Prior to the season, White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche unexpectedly retired at the tail-end of Spring Training after he was told by team executives that his son was no longer allowed in the clubhouse. The White Sox promptly started off the season with a 17-8 record in the opening month of April.

“Seems like every time we have a little bit of a stir, things go right,” Eaton continued with Doolittle. “Beginning of the season went really well for us. This little stir, it’s been a positive thing. When he comes back, I’m sure he won’t miss any step in his hop. I’m sure he’ll be just fine.”

Sale commented on the jersey cutting situation earlier this week, offering an apology for the situation. But Sale wasn’t upset over cutting the jerseys, and he didn’t apologize for doing so. He was more upset that he missed games, ultimately letting his teammates down.

“I have regret, because I play 33 times a year at most in the regular season. So I put a lot of emphasis on when I play and I take a lot of pride in work that I do,” Sale told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “When I can’t or don’t do that, yeah, I have disappointment in myself for not being there for my guys.”

“Do I regret standing up for what I believe in? Absolutely not,” Sale continued. “Do I regret saying business should not be first before winning? Absolutely not.”

Sale stressed that he has no issues with his current franchise and that he hopes to remain with the third-place team in the American League Central. But with the MLB trade deadline set for July 31st, rumors have been swirling all around Sale and his availability for more contending teams. It would require a blockbuster of a deal to acquire the 27-year-old pitcher who has finished in the among the top six in AL Cy Young voting in each of the last six seasons, but teams would be chomping at the bit to acquire Sale’s services.

Whether or not a trade happens is yet to be decided. But what is decided is that Sale returns to a team that will support him and is happy to have him back.

“Players always have their teammates’ back,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura told Doolittle. “It’s no different in our clubhouse. I think it’s going to be fairly normal.

“He’s going to be prepared to pitch,” Ventura continued. “Our guys are going to be prepared to play.”

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