May 4 may be known as Star Wars Day around the internets (May the fourth be with you -- get it?), but in Chicago it's new closer day.
On the North side, Rafael Dolis came in to close the Cubs game against the Dodgers, while on the South side, manager Robin Ventura told reporters that Chris Sale would take over the closer's duties for Hector Santiago (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). Sale has a tender elbow and the move is a way to be cautious about his future. He'll be available to close on Monday. Sale has already thrown 32 innings this season after throwing 71 all of 2011 as a reliever.
Ventura told reporters that Sale isn't injured, but he will be replacing him in the rotation with right-hander Dylan Axelrod. Sale was 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in five starts, striking out 29 in 32 innings.
"We're doing it because we feel it's best for him, his career and his health. It's the best way to keep him healthy and strong," pitching coach Don Cooper told reporters (Chicago Tribune). It gives us the best opportunity to do that. It's easier to maintain that and keeping tabs on this in the bullpen than it is as a starter. We already know he's a good left-handed reliever. That's been proven over the past 1 ½ years. Now we'll be trying to make him one of the best left handed relievers in baseball, not just in the American League."
Santiago, 24, has four saves, but has a 7.36 ERA and 2.045 WHIP in eight appearances this season. Santiago pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Tuesday and blew an extra-inning lead on April 25, giving up three runs on a Yoenis Cespedes homer and a four singles.
Axelrod, 26, has appeared in two games this season, allowing an earned run in 3 1/3 innings. He made three starts last season, going 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA. He will start Sunday against the Tigers in Detroit opposite Rick Porcello.
Left-hander Michael Stults is expected to get the call to pitch in Monday's doubleheader in Cleveland. Stults, 32, is 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte. In 41 big-league games (including 24 starts), he's 8-10 with a 4.93 ERA with the Dodgers and Rockies.