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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The injury-riddled Chicago White Sox have their ace back, and the New York Yankees can't be too thrilled about that.
Chris Sale is slated to take the mound for the first time in over a month as the White Sox welcome the Yankees to the South Side for the opener of this four-game set Thursday night.
Sale (3-0, 2.30 ERA) is returning from a flexor strain in his left arm. He was hurt while throwing a career-high 127 pitches in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to Boston on April 17, allowing one run. He complained of soreness in his arm the next day, and went on the disabled list five days later.
"I'm excited," Sale said. "It's been a long time. It's something I've been looking forward to. It's been longer than I expected. I think it was just our taking time and not rushing back before the rehab process (was over), to come back at 100 percent."
Sale's return is certainly welcome after the White Sox (23-25) concluded a 4-5 road trip with a 3-1 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday.
"It's big," manager Robin Ventura said of the two-time All-Star's return. "A guy like him you get a pretty good feeling that you're going to win. He's proven that. With everything he's gone through, it feels good."
Sale is the first of several key White Sox to return from injury. Closer Matt Lindstrom will undergo ankle surgery and is expected to be out three months, while slugger Jose Abreu (ankle) went on the disabled list Sunday.
Sale will now try to continue his dominance of the Yankees (24-12). The left-hander owns a 1.05 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 25 2-3 innings over six games against them, including a 2-0 record and 1.21 ERA in three starts.
He's held them to one earned run while fanning 23 batters in 17 2-3 innings in two starts and four home meetings total.
Sale missed out on a win at New York on Sept. 3. He allowed one run through seven innings, but gave up two more before the bullpen surrendered three in the eighth of a 6-4 loss.
While the White Sox were swept in that three-game road series, they've won six in a row against the Yankees at home.
New York's road trip goes from the North to the South Side of Chicago. The Yankees opened this nine-game jaunt by salvaging a split of a two-game set with the Cubs on Wednesday, when Brendan Ryan scored the decisive run in a 4-2, 13-inning victory.
Brett Gardner has two hits in each of the past three games, and the left fielder is batting .353 with 10 RBIs and 15 runs over the past 17 games. He's a career .349 hitter against the White Sox, but he's 0 for 7 with four strikeouts versus Sale.
The Yankees will turn to David Phelps (1-0, 3.33), who battled through a season-high 100 pitches while walking three batters and hitting another in five scoreless innings of a 7-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The right-hander allowed five runs in 10 1-3 innings while not getting a decision in his first two starts - both on the road - after replacing the injured Michael Pineda (shoulder) in the rotation.
"You don't want to grind every time out, but it's one thing that I've kind of done this year. I haven't really had my best stuff yet," Phelps said.
He was charged with a 14-7 home loss to Chicago on June 29, 2012, allowing two runs with five strikeouts in 3 1-3 innings of relief.
Updated May 22, 2014