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CHICAGO (AP) – Chris Sale arrived on the last player bus to Wrigley Field dressed in a dark suit, walked into the cramped visiting clubhouse, scanned the room and smiled.
He hugged teammates Dioner Navarro and Matt Albers, then did a lap around the clubhouse, greeting each player sitting at his locker.
“Good to see you, pal,” third baseman Todd Frazier said.
Chicago White Sox players warmly greeted their ace as he returned to the team Thursday following his jersey-tearing incident last weekend that earned him a five-day suspension. Sale went on to throw six effective innings, but it wasn’t enough as the Cubs won 3-1 to earn a split in Chicago’s rivalry series.
“It felt like I was out on an island, really,” Sale said of being away from the team. “When seven o’clock rolls around I usually know what’s going on.”
The White Sox optioned right-hander Anthony Ranaudo to Triple-A Charlotte to open a roster spot as Sale was reinstated from the suspended list.
“Some mistakes are bigger than others, but you’ve got to understand we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said.
Kris Bryant, who homered against Sale in the All-Star Game, hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the first inning. Ben Zobrist added an RBI single in the third. Sale (14-4) allowed six hits and worked out of other jams, but John Lackey (8-7) outpitched him and Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs to save his first game for the Cubs.
Sale could also be traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. The White Sox are struggling to stay in playoff contention and Sale’s behavior has caused friction with manager Robin Ventura and the front office.
“They said their side. I said my side,” Sale said. “I’m ready to talk about baseball and playing baseball and getting back to winning and getting the Chicago White Sox into the postseason. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Anything else, that’s for you guys.”
The left-hander tore up 1976-era throwback jerseys he didn’t want to wear for his previous scheduled start Saturday against Detroit. The White Sox scratched Sale, sent him home and a day later suspended him five days for “insubordination and for destroying team equipment.”
Sale later told MLB.com that he stood by his actions and suggested Ventura should have stood up for him. He said the uncomfortable uniforms showed the White Sox valued promotion over winning.
“I think everyone is making a little bigger deal of this than it really is,” Sale said. “We’re here to win games and from this point forward I think that’s our main focus. I hope it is, too.”
Ventura spoke to reporters before the game just a few minutes after his five-time All-Star arrived.
“He’s a great kid. This hasn’t changed that,” Ventura said. “We’ve seem him do some really great stuff. I know I’ve done some stuff that I wouldn’t want people to know.”
But Sale has had other run-ins with management, and his team-friendly contract could produce a deal full of prospects if the White Sox decide to sell at the deadline. Sale, though, insisted he wants to stay in Chicago.
“I hope so. I do,” he said. “I have a group of unbelievable guys in there. My teammates, I knew who they were before this, but I found out who they really are and what they’re about.”
“I have unbelievable teammates, I really do, and I appreciate them, and I’m glad I’m surrounded by this group of guys, no doubt.”
Sale also apologized to the fans and suggested a possible charity event tied to the jerseys he destroyed.
“Hopefully we can find to help somebody,” Sale said, “a group of people with this whole fiasco and hoopla, whatever you want to call it.”
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