Lanky Pitcher Towers Over All-Star Game

The White Sox's Chris Sale's crazy delivery stood out among All-Stars last week. Host Rachel Martin talks with NPR's Mike Pesca about Sale's chance of injury.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are right in the middle of a long, hot summer, and that means this past week while we were hunkered down next to the air conditioner, Major League Baseball had it All-Star Game, and NPR's Mike Pesca was there sweating it out for us. He's here to tell us what caught his eye. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: I did have a shirt that wicks away moisture so...

MARTIN: Oh, good. So glad. All right. So, a couple of big headlines out of this game. First, the American League did beat the National League 3-0. Then, of course, this was a big night for Mariano Rivera, the living legend on the Yankees. He's retiring this year. He won the MVP award for the All-Star Game, which is a big deal, right?

PESCA: Well, yes. I mean, it was wonderful - it was also undeserved, not that this matters. It's the All-Star Game. And if I was running it, I would have given it to him. But the pitcher, who pitched two innings - the only guy who pitched two innings for the American League and didn't give up a hit and struck out two - was a guy name Chris Sale. He could very well be the best pitcher in the American League. He's 6-6, 180. And everything argues that this guy is going to be an ace, except for the fact that he might be a ticking time bomb of injury.

MARTIN: He's also really skinny. I mean, 6-6, 180 - is that how he's going to injure himself, just he's going to break a bone or something?

PESCA: Right. So, it correlates. So, there have been guys who were taller but they all weighed more, and there have been guys who have weighed less but they've all been shorter, you know, of the pitchers of any note. So, what Sale has to do is he gets his body in a position that some biomechanics experts, like a guy named Chris O'Leary, has called the inverted W, and it's a dangerous position for a pitcher. I'll show you what it...

MARTIN: Sounds painful.

PESCA: Yes, yes, yes. Especially since an inverted W should just be a M, but let's set that aside for a second. So, here's how it works: make two balls of fists with your hands, as one does with fists, and hold your fists next to your ears. So, your elbows are kind of pointing down and the fists are up near your ears, right?

MARTIN: OK.

PESCA: Now, rotate your fists down so the elbows are now higher than your, or about level, with your shoulders.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Got it, yeah.

PESCA: So, that's the inverted W. And when a pitcher - Sale is so skinny, he has to have a lot of violent motion - when he adopts that pose, it leads to high pressure and torque and what could be injury. A lot of people are quite worried because a lot of other pitchers with the inverted W have gotten injured before.

MARTIN: OK. Real quick, a curveball?

PESCA: Yeah. I love the Tour de France. You know, it got mired in steroids. And what I love about it is one word: chaos. You know, sometimes the chaos is bad like a car getting stuck at the finish line on the first day of the race. Someone threw urine at one of the riders. Dogs are always causing crashes. But sometimes the chaos is great. You know, you don't know what's going to happen. And some stages for the climbers and some stages for the sprinters. So, Chris Froome, he's going to win it tonight almost certainly. He's an Englishman. It's really a fun, great race.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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